Biomechanical Adaptations of Gait in Pregnancy: Implications for Physical Activity and Exercise



During pregnancy, women experience several changes in the body’s physiology, morphology, and hormonal system. These changes may affect the balance and body stability and can cause discomfort and pain. The adaptations of the musculoskeletal system due to morphological changes during pregnancy are not fully understood. Few studies clarify the biomechanical changes of gait that occur during pregnancy and in postpartum. The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the available evidence on the biomechanical adaptations of gait that occur throughout pregnancy and in postpartum, specifically with regard to the temporal, spatial, kinematic, and kinetic parameters of gait and balance.

The highlights of this chapter are the following: (1) Pregnancy requires biomechanical adjustments as shown by several publications in the last 20 years. (2) Adaptations due to pregnancy are recognized to provide safety and stability. (3) Most studies performed a temporal, spatial, and kinematic analysis, and few studies performed a kinetic analysis. (4) There is lack of consistency in the results of biomechanical studies due to different methodological approaches. (5) The adaptation strategies to the anatomical and physiological changes throughout pregnancy are still unclear, particularly in a longitudinal perspective and regarding kinetic parameters. (6) The main biomechanical adaptations during pregnancy are gait speed reduction, longer double-support time, and increased step width, and ground reaction forces decrease. (7) There is lack of information regarding the effects of physical activity and exercise, risk of falls, and low back pain on the biomechanical adjustments. (8) Exercise adaptations can be provided in order to increase adherence, safety, and effectiveness.


Pregnancy Postpartum Biomechanics Loading Gait Balance Exercise 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sport Sciences School of Rio MaiorPolytechnic Institute of SantarémRio MaiorPortugal
  2. 2.Laboratory of Biomechanics and Functional Morphology, Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Human Performance, Faculty of Human KineticsUniversity of LisbonCruz Quebrada-DafundoPortugal
  3. 3.Universidade Europeia LisbonLisbonPortugal

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