Does a woman's shoe size predict the need for a cesarean section?

C-Section Prediction and Shoe Size

Pregnant woman lying on futon, looking at abdomen, side view
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There are a lot of rumors that float around about what predicts the need for a cesarean section or c-section. One of those has to do with the size of a woman's shoe. Does a woman's shoe size predict the need for a cesarean section?

The truth is no, not matter anyone tries to tell you at a baby shower or in the doctor's office waiting room, your shoe size does not predict the need for cesarean section.

The folklore goes something likes this: supposedly the size of a shoe would tell a doctor or midwife how large the pelvic opening was or the size of a woman's pelvis in general. So a large foot would equal a large opening in the pelvis and hopefully an easier birth, and, a smaller shoe would mean a smaller opening, and therefore a potentially more difficult birth.

A couple of studies were done looking at the shoe size of women and the c-section rates. There was no correlation to the size of the pelvis and cesarean rate. There is no way that shoe size predicts the probability of c-section or that of a vaginal birth. 

One study also looked at height and shoe size to predict the number of c-sections. There was no correlation with shoe size, but there was a bit of a correlation with height. That said, more than 80% of the women who were 5 feet 2 inches (160 cm) still delivered vaginally. So simply being shorter does also not mean that you are guaranteed to have a cesarean birth.

If a woman is worried about the size of her pelvis it is important to remember that the baby does a really good job of fitting by allowing its head to mold through the pelvis. This is partially because the bones of the pelvis are flexible, particularly at the end of pregnancy when the hormone relaxin is helping her pelvis be more mobile.

Your baby's head also molds, or is shaped to fit the pelvis through the contractions, their skull moves to fit through the pelvis in the easiest way.

Moving around in labor by assuming different positions can be very helpful. It can help you be more comfortable, but it can also allow you to use gravity to help the baby move down into the pelvis and allow your baby's head to fit to the shape of the pelvis. 

So if your doctor or midwife is suggesting a cesarean simply based on your shoe size, you might want to get a second opinion before scheduling a c-section. It's usually best for mom and baby to request a trial of labor to see how well baby fits. Labor is the best way to find this out for sure, in absence of other medical risk factors or history.


Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2007 Nov;276(5):523-8. Epub 2007 Apr 26. Awonuga AO, Merhi Z, Awonuga MT, Samuels TA, Waller J, Pring D. Anthropometric measurements in the diagnosis of pelvic size: an analysis of maternal height and shoe size and computed tomography pelvimetric data.

Maternal height, shoe size, and outcome of labour in white primigravidas: a prospective anthropometric study. BMJ. 1988 Aug 20-27;297(6647):515-7.

The relationship between shoe size and mode of delivery. Midwifery Today Childbirth Educ. 1997 Spring;(41):70-1.

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