Clubfoot can be several foot abnormalities that are congenital, or present at birth. The tendons in the baby’s foot are shorter and so the foot is out of position or twisted. This common birth defect can be mild or severe, and most are successfully treated without surgery.
Boys are more likely to have clubfoot than girls and it tends to run in families. The baby may have clubfoot if there is too little amniotic fluid, and the risk of clubfoot if the mother smokes during pregnancy is greatly increased.
Clubfoot can result in complications in later life such as arthritis, poor self-image, inability to walk correctly and foot sores or calluses.
Look for one or more of these signs:
- The top of the foot is twisted inward and downward
- The foot appears to be upside down
- The foot or leg may be shorter
- The calf muscles are underdeveloped
However, usually there will be no pain.
Treatment for clubfoot should begin in the first few weeks after birth when the baby’s joints, bones and tendons are flexible.
Stretching and casting is the most common treatment and is called the Ponseti method. The doctor will move the baby’s foot to the correct position and apply a cast. The cast will be changed and the baby’s foot repositioned about once a week for several months. The Achilles tendon may need to be lengthened. To maintain the new correct position, stretching exercises will be required as may braces and special shoes.
If the clubfoot abnormality does not respond to stretching, or if it is severe, surgery may be recommended to reposition or lengthen ligaments or tendons into a better position.
In pregnancy, you can take steps to reduce the risk of your baby having birth defects:
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid smoky environments
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Don’t take drugs except those approved by your doctor