Is it safe to lift heavy things or exercise in pregnancy?

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Have you lifted a bag of groceries or a box of office supplies only to be told you shouldn’t because you are pregnant? Or been told that you should not ride a bike or run or play soccer? Does your job include manual labour? Do you worry that maybe you should stop lifting, carrying or work out because it might harm your pregnancy? We get asked all the time:

Is it safe to lift heavy things and exercise in pregnancy?

The general answer is yes. It is safe. Most activities that you considered healthy and safe when you are not pregnant are safe during pregnancy. If you are used to slinging 10lbs bag of potatoes onto a grocery store shelf then sling away. If you carry a 50lb packpack up hiking trails on the weekends then march on. If you are a runner then sign up for that half-marathon. Are kettle bells and crunches your thing? Then keep on cross training. 

20160918_124244Are there exceptions?

Of course there are times or situations when it might not be safe. As your pregnancy progresses you will have to listen to your body. Some people feel strong and able to continue their pre-pregnancy level of activity right up until they give birth. Other people may have to slow or alter their activity level as their pregnancy progresses due to fatigue, muscle strain or other realities of pregnancy. Your health care provider might recommend that you stop certain activities because or risks of complications in your pregnancy. You should feel safe continuing your level of physical activity unless your health care provider has specifically told you to stop.

Are there activities that are not safe in pregnancy?

You should avoid activities that include the risk of blunt force trauma. Examples include sky diving, bungie jumping, car accidents, falling down the stairs and perhaps some sports like full contact football, particularly after the first trimester.

If you were inactive before you got pregnant then you should not dramatically increase your activity level suddenly.Start at your comfort level and progress gradually. This is good advice whether you are pregnant or not. 

Is it better to just avoid heavy lifting and exercise just in case?

We have an epidemic of health problems in North America that are directly linked to sedentary lifestyles. Pregnancy is no different. Gestational diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels, back pain, unhealthy weight gain, swelling, difficulty moving, lack of flexibility… All of these pregnancy related woes can be alleviated by regular exercise and an active lifestyle. People are generally well meaning when they encourage people not to lift heavy things or exercise during pregnancy. But it is terrible advice. Your body, your birth and your baby will all benefit from a healthy level of activity. 

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Genia is a registered midwife and international board certified lactation consultant with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Genia here.