As if having a basketball-size abdomen isn't challenging enough, pregnancy hormones loosen your joints, making it harder to keep your balance. In fact, moms-to-be have about a one in four chance of taking a serious tumble -- the same as someone over age 65 -- according to a new study of around 4,000 women. The findings, from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, reveal the following precautions pregnant women can take to reduce their risks, says lead author Kari Dunning, Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
? Take your time. Rushing somewhere or carrying an object or a child were leading causes of falls, according to the study. Dunning's advice: Slow down, use the handrail on stairs, watch out for slippery floors, and wear shoes that fit well and provide traction.
? Be careful. Having an awareness of how your body is changing is key to staying on your feet, says Isabel Blumberg, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in New York City. "Your coordination changes, slowing your reaction to losing your balance." Dr. Blumberg advises patients who have big dogs -- or little kids -- to be extra careful because it's easy for a child or a pet to pull a pregnant woman off balance. "Take special precautions during bad weather," Dr. Blumberg adds, noting that she's most likely to get calls from pregnant patients who've fallen when it's raining.
? Exercise. If you do take a fall during pregnancy, you're less likely to be injured if you're relatively fit. Yoga is a good choice because it enhances flexibility and improves your balance, says Dr. Blumberg. The mental calmness yoga builds can help as well, says Jane Silane, a yoga instructor at Jivamukti, in New York City. "When you're trying to get everything done in a frenzy, accidents are more prone to happen," Silane says. Remember: A fall during pregnancy is worth a call to your doctor.