Can I Continue My Caregiving Job?

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi, I am now 6 months pregnant with my second child. I have a job as a home healthcare provider for one lady with Alzheimers. I work 25 hours a week. She weighs about 140 pounds and needs assistance to get up and walk and to go to the bathroom. For longer distances we have a wheelchair. I have been with her for 5 years and she has required basically the same level of care the whole time.I have talked to my midwife and a doctor about whether or not I can continue to do this work and if so, for how long. The only real response I've gotten is that I have to be careful not to hurt my back. Well my back is fine but I need to know if I can hurt the baby in any way by the work that I am doing. Unfortunately I don't have a choice as to whether I want to quit or not, since my income is needed along with my husband's to make ends meet. Any answers you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Damara

ANSWER

Your midwife and physician are being evasive because it's a difficult question to answer. I'll answer with a story. While on the U.S. Bobsled team, I was lifting/squatting over 300 pounds until my seventh month. My body was completely acclimated to this kind of workout so it was not a change for me.

As a personal trainer, I worry greatly about women who have been sedentary all their lives, get pregnant and suddenly want to work out. Because they are not used to hard workouts or heavy lifting, this is potentially dangerous for them. And, because your joints loosen in the second trimester, lifting heavy objects increases the likelihood of injury. The good news for you is you have been working with this woman for five years and are no doubt acclimated to the kind of workload required. My biggest worries for you is the back and pulled ab muscles. But with proper form -- really concentrate on your movements as you work with your client -- you may prevent any kind of strain or pull to your lower back.

When elite athletes workout, our biggest concern for the baby is when the mother-to-be becomes dehydrated (not a worry for you), or gets too hot, causing their inner core temperature to spike (not a worry for you). Babies do not have a mechanism to sweat and overheating is our main concern. This does not apply to you.

Damara, my number one rule when talking to a new (pregnant) client is move slowly and do not begin a new exercise routine. You are being careful and are not doing anything new. Of course, I want you to reevaluate lifting 140 pounds as you enter your third trimester, but for now, everything appears to be very normal and routine.

Keep in constant dialogue with your midwife and physician. Report any pulls or strains you may feel and be careful. Otherwise, it sounds like you have things well in hand. Good luck. Don't worry, have a great pregnancy and keep us posted!

-- Alex

Alexandra Allred

Alexandra Allred is a former member of the US Women's Bobsled team, is an accomplished martial artist, and continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She has interviewed hundreds of athletes, models, actresses, trainers, doctors, and health/fitness experts as she sought to find answers to her own questions about working out while pregnant, arranging breast-feeding around a training schedule, diet when pregnant and breastfeeding, and encouraging her whole family.

Alex is the author of ten books, including Atta Girl! A Celebration of Women in Sports and Entering the Mother Zone: Balancing Self, Health & Family. We're excited to have her on board!