Feb. 9, 2011— -- As a slave to fashion, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe announced that she does not own a pair of flat shoes, and, even now, seven months pregnant, Zoe rocks thigh-high stilettos for an afternoon on the town.
Last weekend, the 39-year-old Zoe was photographed with her husband and friends strolling around Los Angeles. Along with her stiletto platform boots, Zoe wore a belted black shirt-dress with a knit bomber jacket. Stylish indeed, but some wonder if Zoe is risking safety of body and baby for her high fashion style.
"Stilettos in general are not dangerous," said Dr. Lauren Streicher, a staff obstetrician gynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We are fortunately long past the days when a pregnant woman had to wear a tent or a t-shirt with an arrow pointing to the belly."
Doctors say the main reason that high heels have gotten a bad rep is because a woman's body weight and shape change during pregnancy, and so does her center of gravity. Because of this, she may be more prone to falls, which could have dire consequences. But otherwise, a lot of the risk is to her own comfort.
"It's fine for a pregnant woman to wear stilettos, but she may find her balance is off, especially when she gets large," said Streicher. "If she were to fall, obviously she could break a leg, but there is no particularl danger to that developing pregnancy."
Dr. Manuel Porto, professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, also said that the arched back posture that is used by most pregnant women to accommodate the change leads to low back pain. Wearing high-heeled shoes and boots can exacerbate those problems, especially as feet start to swell in the later months.
"Most obstetricians recommend that patients wear flat shoes or those with less than a two-inch heel, especially in the third trimester," said Porto.
And Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said that the key is to listen to your body when making fashion decisions.
"If your feet hurt or you feel the center of gravity shift has made it hard to walk in heels, then stop," said Moritz. "If not, good for you."
Besides the heel, some women have a very difficult time watching their body change and gain weight.
"No one likes the actual weight gain, but many women enjoy being pregnant and the body changes that go with it," said Streicher. "Some women have a much harder time with it."
"Pregnant women, particularly those who are health-conscious prior to pregnancy, have great concerns about the weight gain accompanying pregnancy and how soon they will be able to get back to their pre-pregnancy-weight," said Porto.
Streicher said that some women, especially those who work in the corporate world, do go out of their way to hide the pregnancy and not change their basic look or usual fashion sense for as long as possible.
More important, though, most women are more concerned that they gain sufficient weight to ensure that the fetus will grow appropriately, Porto said.
Women gain an average of 20 to 30 pounds during pregnancy.
"Most women know they will gain weight," said Moritz. "It's part of pregnancy. The problem is the amount of weight gain can be very reasonable and still safe. You don't need to eat for two, but 1.2."
Doctors say women need to eat an extra 200 to 300 calories per day during the last six months of pregnancy, which means to an average of 1,900 to 2,500 calories per day. Women who are underweight or overweight may need different amounts, so it's important for a woman to talk with her doctor about a diet plan.
"The most important thing is not to gain too much weight," said Streicher. "Women that gain an appropriate amount of weight generally feel good, look good, have a healthier pregnancy and quickly lose the weight."
And, when a women does gain a healthy amount of weight, she is generally able to wear clothes that go along with her usual style, albeit a size larger or one that makes room for her growing baby.
Pregnancy and Style
"Pregnancy is not a disease, and women should be able to dress how they want and look fabulous," said Streicher. "Of course, it's a matter of taste what looks fabulous."
So, to all those pregnant women out there who can't imagine surrendering style to a baby bump, there's the green light. If you're willing to deal with some discomfort in those heels, doctors say carry on with your fabulous and fashionable self.