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How Pregnancy Can Trip You Up

Even in first trimester, center of mass shifts forward, research shows

FRIDAY, July 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A pregnancy "waddle" really does increase a woman's risk for falls, a new study reveals.

The baby bump changes the way women walk and perform everyday activities, such as rising from a chair or turning around while walking, said researchers from Hiroshima University in Japan.

This may help explain why pregnant women are as likely to fall as women who are 70 years old, the researchers said.

For their study, the researchers used a three-dimensional video recording system, called 3D motion capture, to assess the way pregnant women walk.

"Biomechanics studies like ours of how humans move are valuable for many things, like making our built environments safer or designing mobility skills," said Koichi Shinkoda in a university news release. He is a professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Shinkoda's team used the 3D recording system -- which is typically found on movie sets -- to create biomechanical models of eight women at three stages of pregnancy. The researchers also created biomechanical models of seven women who weren't pregnant.

A computer analysis of the video led to the creation of virtual models that represent the average pregnant woman.

"This model is just the start of our goal of contributing to a safe and comfortable life before and after childbirth for pregnant women," said the study's first author, Yasuyo Sunaga, a doctoral student at the university.

The study's findings confirm why pregnant women walk differently. Even in their first trimester of pregnancy, women's center of mass is farther forward, the researchers said.

As a result, they lean backwards while standing and bend their hips less while walking. This increases their risk for tripping over their toes or losing their balance, the researchers said.

"Now that we have the appropriate data, we hope to apply our model and make it possible to problem-solve these concerns of daily life," said Sunaga.

The study appears in the July issue of Applied Ergonomics.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more on a safe and healthy pregnancy.

SOURCE: Hiroshima University, news release, June 27, 2016

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