What Causes a Waddling Gait?
A waddle is when your legs move in a jerky manner. You may have one or several waddles during pregnancy. A common cause of this condition is preeclampsia, which occurs when there are too many blood clots in the placenta (the organ that nourishes and protects the fetus).
The most common type of preeclampsia is known as hypertensive crisis. This form of preeclampsia usually occurs in women with high blood pressure and diabetes, but it can occur in healthy women without these risk factors.
Another common cause of preeclampsia is a genetic predisposition called maternal obesity syndrome (MOS), which affects 1 out of every 3,000 pregnancies. MOS is caused by mutations in genes involved in fat metabolism and storage. These mutations increase the amount of triglycerides in the body and lead to hypertension.
Other types of preeclampsia include gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and gestational hypertension. GDM is a disease where the cells in your ovaries don’t produce enough insulin properly.
If left untreated, this can result in high blood sugar levels throughout your body, including your brain. GDM can lead to birth defects, brain damage, stillbirths, or complications after birth. Gestational hypertension is caused by high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy. This type of high blood pressure usually goes away after you give birth.
What is a waddling gait?
A waddling gait is when you have trouble lifting your feet up because your legs and thighs are so swollen that they rub together. Other symptoms of a waddling gait include difficulty bending one leg to place it in front of the other, a swaggering or rolling walk, or a wide-based squatting stance. This also causes pain in the front of the shins. You may also develop corns on your feet. If you also have swollen hands and face puffiness, your doctor may suspect preeclampsia or MOS, even if your blood pressure is in the normal range.
How is it diagnosed?
The doctor will begin by asking questions about your medical history and performing a physical exam. He’ll ask you about your diet, whether or not you’ve experienced any swelling in the past, and whether anyone in your family has had high blood pressure or preeclampsia. He’ll also ask you about any pain you’re experiencing in your abdomen and pelvis. If he suspects you have preeclampsia, he’ll order blood and urine tests to check your kidney and liver function and your blood cells.
For a waddling gait, you’ll probably be referred to a physical therapist who can recommend special exercises to strengthen your leg muscles and improve your balance. He may also suggest that you use crutches, depending on the severity of your condition.
If you are diagnosed with MOS, your doctor may order amniocentesis to check for birth defects in your fetus.
If you have gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, your doctor will probably ask you to make some lifestyle changes. For gestational diabetes, you’ll be asked to limit the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in your diet.
You may also be asked to check your blood sugar levels at home. If you have severe preeclampsia or your fetus is at risk, you’ll be given medication to control your blood pressure. Otherwise, you’ll probably be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home and record what you’re eating.
How is it treated?
If you have a waddling gait, your physical therapist will begin by checking for muscle imbalances in your legs. He’ll then teach you a series of exercises that will stretch and strengthen your hip and thigh muscles. For instance, he may have you lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Then, he may have you lift your affected leg and hold it in the air while you extend the other one straight out. Once you can do this comfortably without any pain, he’ll have you lift your knees to your chest. If you experience pain or discomfort, he’ll teach you how to stretch the muscles that are causing the problem. For instance, if the pain is in your inner thigh, he’ll have you lie on your side and gently pull your knee toward your chest. He may also recommend that you use a cane or crutches when you’re walking until the pain goes away.
If you have preeclampsia, your doctor will give you medication to control your blood pressure and decrease the amount of protein in your urine. He may also recommend that you be induced two weeks before your due date or have a c-section.
Before treatment, your doctor will order lab tests to confirm a diagnosis of gestational diabetes or MOS. If you have gestational diabetes, you’ll be asked to change your diet.
You’ll be given a meal plan that limits the amount of carbohydrates you consume and recommends eating five or six small meals throughout the day. Your doctor may also ask you to check your blood sugar levels at home and keep a food diary.
If you have MOS, your doctor may recommend amniocentesis to check for birth defects in your fetus.
How can it be prevented?
If you have a waddling gait, your physical therapist may recommend that you wear a heel lift in your shoe to decrease the pressure on the ball of your foot. Alternatively, he may recommend that you use a cane when you’re walking until the pain goes away.
If you have MOS, there’s currently no way to prevent it. You’ll receive regular ultrasounds to monitor the health of your baby.
If an amniocentesis shows that your fetus has birth defects, you may choose to end your pregnancy.
What term is used?
A waddling gait, gestational diabetes, and MOS are all descriptive terms used to identify symptoms in patients who have yet to be diagnosed with a particular disease.
Sources & references used in this article:
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