Research Confirms That Pregnant Women Do Waddle Like Penguins

What’s so funny about a pregnancy gait? We’ve been there, and we heard it – that pregnant women walk no less than a duck waddles its way off. I always thought it was cute, but quite many women folk there take offense to the analogy. While they don’t want to hear the comparison, it might just be true, as it seems from the recent scientific backing it has received!

According to new research at Hiroshima University, scientists have found that women do waddle like penguins during pregnancy. The study is first of its kind and measures the unique way in which pregnant women walk. In the study that has been published online in the journal Applied Ergonomics, researchers used a sophisticated 3D motion capture system that was used in “The Lord of the Rings” and other CGI blockbusters. The study has helped the scientists in knowing how women are forced to adjust their regular movements from as common as rising from a chair to changing direction while walking.


Through filming mothers-to-be at different pregnancy stages, the researchers were able to understand how a baby bump can change a woman’s gait right in the first trimester. They also found that an accidental fall would cause up to one-third of all trauma injuries during pregnancy with the risk level being likened to that of a seventy-year-old woman.

One such study, on pregnant women, was conducted in 1996 in Canada. But the data gathered then is outdated now considering the imaging technology available in the current times. Earlier body scan analysis was almost exclusively focused on men of European decent. Professor Koichi Shinkoda at Hiroshima University, who carried out the research, said that biometric studies as this might help us understand the movements of humans and could be valuable in understanding how we create safer environments or design mobility skills.

Before this study, there were no established theory-backed models to support the belief that women do waddle during their pregnancy. However, as per Yasuyo Sunaga, a doctoral student in Professor Shinkoda’s lab believes that the model would help them achieve the goal of contributing a secure and comfortable life before and after childbirth for pregnant women.

The 3D motion used in the study has been applied in films like Avatar. But it has been employed in assessing the precise movements of pregnant women such as standing up, walking, turning, or carrying a light load. Apart from 3D application, special flooring was also used as a means to gauge the force of their steps.

The study involved participation from eight women at three different times during their pregnancy. Seven non-pregnant women were used as the control group. To record the movements, infrared cameras were used. Virtual models were created after computer analysis to represent the average pregnant woman.

What the study has inferred is that pregnant women walk awkwardly from the first trimester on. It turns out that the center of mass is further forward, and women bend their hips less while walking and they lean backward while standing. The three factors combined might trip them over their toes and could make them lose balance easily.

With computer-generated models, it is easier to find out what sort of movements are safe in a dangerous situation, without having to put a real participant into such a situation. Sunaga says that through the study they also intend to figure out the ideal way for new mothers to carry their baby and which exercises are most effective to return to fitness post-pregnancy. It could also help them determine what physical postures are the best for work either at home or office. Given more tangible data available through 3D images than in the past, it is quite possible to arrive at a solution for these normal daily life concerns.

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