Lifting During Pregnancy

QUESTIONS

Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi. I'm not sure yet if I'm pregnant or not but I have the symptoms of being pregnant. I have a question about lifting. I work at a place that requires lifting boxes sometimes and I was wondering what weight level would be safe to lift without hurting the baby if I am pregnant?

Also, what kind of foods can one eat during pregnancy? What kind of exercises are recommended during pregnancy? Thanks for your time and attention.

Janet

ANSWER

Hi Janet,
Typically, women who are pregnant are told to stay away from heavy lifting. This is for a number of reasons. Most women do NOT lift heavy objects, therefore, they are not used to the strain. But the norm of thinking re: most forms of exercise is that a pregnant may continue with the workout routine her body is adjusted to.

If you were to tell me that you ran, sprinted, jumped on a trampoline or climbed buildings, I would tell you it was safe to continue as you are already acclimated to that routine. Obviously, as your body changes, so does the routine and you are forced to re-adjust your activity.

In the case of heavy lifting, we have to be very careful. What constitutes as heavy? Are you lifting 50 or 60 pounds. It is safe for you to continue this if 1) you have your doctor's permission. Because we do not know your medical background, it is dangerous for us to say 'yes' without questioning your medical history. You may also be safe in lifting heavier objects if 2) you are lifting correctly. Again, we may assume you know how to lift as you do it all the time.

However, people normally have poor form when lifting and this causes back injury. While you will most likely not hurt the baby in the least bit, an injured back could result in mandatory bedrest for you. The easy answer would be to say, 'yes, you may continue lifting until it is uncomfortable.' However, there are these outside factors to consider.

We suggest you find out if you are pregnant or not. With your doctor's permission, you may continue to lift the reasonable amount of weight you have been thus far but listen to your body. IF you are grunting and holding your breathe while lifting, stop. Be sure to lift from the legs, always starting from a squat position. Do not lean forward, pulling from the back.

The good news is your body is incredibly resilient and your body is very well protected. Other things to be concerned about -- more so than the heavy lifting -- is making sure you are properly hydrated (drink lots of water!) and that you not get too hot. Check our web for information about inner core temperature.

In regards to exercise, there are many exercises you can do. However, it is difficult to know how to guide you until we know what kind of exercise you have done in the past. If you are a walker or jogger, you may continue these activities. But if you have not done these cardiovascular workouts, we need for you to begin slowly and safely. Once again, be sure to get a medical release from your physician. Once you have done that and he or she believes it is safe for you to exercise, you can start with walking, slowly building on the time and speed in which you walk.

It is highly recommended that you start with a trainer. This is someone who can talk to you about your heart rate, distance, proper form and setting goals. Of course, we know this is not always feasible, so let's take this step-by-step. Find out if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor and then get back to us with the results. Be sure to include what kinds of workouts you have done in the past so we know what your body can handle as you begin a new routine.

Good luck.

-- 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!