During pregnancy, you may feel like you're all thumbs — or all feet or elbows. You find yourself stumbling or tripping, bumping into things, dropping everything you pick up. You may worry that you're going to fall and hurt your baby.

It's perfectly normal to be clumsier than usual at this time. As your uterus grows, your sense of balance is thrown off. Your usual ways of moving, standing and walking change.

In addition, the hormone relaxin, produced by the placenta, relaxes the binding ligaments that hold the three pelvic bones together. This allows the pelvis to open wider so that the baby's head can move through the pelvis. It can also contribute to the feeling of clumsiness.

Other factors that may make you clumsier include water retention, lack of concentration (see also Forgetfulness) or lack of dexterity due to carpal tunnel syndrome (see also Carpal tunnel syndrome). Late in pregnancy, your large uterus can block your view of stairs or hazards on the floor. All of these effects are temporary, and you'll be back to your old self again after the baby is born.

If you do fall, your baby probably won't be harmed. An injury would normally have to be severe enough to hurt you before it would harm your baby. (See also Falls.)

■ Prevention and self-care for clumsiness

You can't do much about the physical changes that can make you feel like a bull in a china shop. But you can decrease your chances of falling by taking a few precautions:

• Avoid wearing high heels or pumps. Instead, wear stable, flat shoes with soles that provide good traction.

• Avoid situations that require careful balance, such as perching on ladders and stools.

• Take a little extra time with tasks that require many changes of position.

• Use extra caution when going up or down stairs and in other situations that put you at risk of tripping or falling, such as walking on an icy sidewalk.

■ When to seek medical help for clumsiness

If you fall and strike your abdomen or you're just worried about the welfare of your baby, see your health care provider for reassurance or treatment, if needed. If you fall on your abdomen late in pregnancy, your health care provider will likely monitor the baby to be sure that the placenta's attachment to the uterus wasn't damaged.

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