Many expecting mothers find themselves being treated like porcelain dolls. Others are expected to continue on with life, work, or other responsibilities as if nothing had changed.
Falling somewhere in between is usually the sweet spot. Yet, you may still have a lot of questions about what to do and what not to do. Specifically about how much you can lift during pregnancy.
So, we’ve built a post around all those nagging “lifting” questions you may have. Keep in mind, all pregnancies are unique so it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider for more detailed advice.
However, these practical keys will help you to understand your pregnant body better and how to approach the lifting conundrum.
Why Lifting Even Poses a Problem
When we talk about lifting, we’re talking about any type of movement where you hoist an object off the ground—boxes, children, laundry baskets, furniture, a 5-gallon bottle of water, etc. Clearly, this is an action that isn’t foreign to any of us.
However, even an everyday thing such as lifting can transform into a problem the further your pregnancy progresses.
Because of the changes in your body, lifting may compound the already uncomfortable and possibly unstable body parts.
Essentially, your skeletal support system changes during pregnancy, making you more vulnerable to strains or other problems.
Lifting—pregnant or not—can be problematic, in general. Depending on the weight of the lifted object, the way your lift, and whether you deal with past injury, lifting could severely injure your body.
So during pregnancy, it’s critical to understand the risk lifting poses as your body changes.
Understand Your Bodily Changes
If you grab a handful of uncooked spaghetti from the box, this is about the state of your joints and ligaments.
Sure, they’re slightly flexible but they’re also stable and solid. During pregnancy, those spaghetti joints soften and become incredibly flexible, creating a bit of instability for you.
You can blame the hormone Relaxin on this particular transformation.
Although you may be cursing it now, you’ll likely be hailing it a godsend during labor. This hormone is what allows your pelvis to widen for baby to pass through. Basically, without flexible joints, your body wouldn’t be able to handle the demands of pregnancy as well as it does.
As you probably know, it takes a lot to carry a baby throughout pregnancy. And, if you’re carrying multiples, you know it twice or thrice as well!
By creating more flexibility in your joints and ligaments, your body is actually trying to lend you a helping hand. Although it doesn’t always feel that way.
The thing about Relaxin is that it doesn’t just impact your hips and pelvis. Nope, it affects your entire body. So, you may feel wobbly in your knees or like your hips randomly pop in and out of joint. Some women have even sensed a sort of double-jointedness during pregnancy.
The most important thing is to be self-aware, respecting your changing body so that you can take care of yourself safely.
How to Lift Safely During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stop lifting altogether. So keep some safety tips in mind when you do haul your toddler upstairs or lift an overflowing laundry basket.
Here are a few tips:
- Bend at the knees, not the waist.
- Keep your back as straight as possible.
- Push up with your legs rather than pull from your back muscles.
- Don’t jerk or make sudden movements; opt for slow and steady.
- Save the heavy lifting for someone else (this means postponing furniture rearranging).
- If something feels wrong or strained, stop (such as cramping, spotting, soreness, etc).
Practicing a healthy posture helps to lift safely, too. Yoga is an excellent resource for establishing a fantastic posture. To give yourself a one-up on safety measures, opt for a prenatal yoga routine.
How to Know When to Stop Lifting
Now, simply because you have always lifted in the past doesn’t mean you can continue to lift the same amount during pregnancy.
For some women, there comes a time when their body simply says, “No more!”
Career and Medical History Matter
Furthermore, “heavy” to one woman could mean something completely different to another. If you’re a delivery driver, lifting a 50-pound box is routine. On the other hand, an office worker may have issues lifting up more than two reams of copy paper. We’re all different so relevancy is a key.
Generally speaking, you stop lifting when you are considered at risk for premature labor or deal with a short cervix, per your healthcare provider. Also, you stop when something feels off or you feel overly exhausted.
It’s vital to listen to your body and follow its direction. Be conscious of pain, twinges, soreness, and cramping.
Details on Weight Limits
Let’s talk about weight—specifically 25-50 pounds. We women can typically lift anything under 25 pounds all day long. Plus, most women can lift up to 50 pounds on occasion. That’s why we can carry toddlers or even preschoolers when needed.
During pregnancy, little changes in terms of limits for the <25 pounds category. Unless you’re high risk, 25 pounds and under is okay. But, the closer the object gets to 50 pounds the more likely it’s going to strain you. Over 50 pounds? Walk away, mama.
If your job is at stake then consider asking for a reassignment during your pregnancy or switching careers altogether.
Furthermore, use your 20-week mark as a defining moment for your career. Meaning, if your lifting assignment hasn’t changed by then, be prepared to make significant changes in your professional life.
What This Means for Your Exercise Routine
For some moms-to-be, yoga and walking are the way to go. Others desire a more intense workout such as weight training during pregnancy.
Exercise routines such as weight lifting can help to ease the aches and pains of pregnancy. Plus, it’s a great way to prepare for carrying around a baby.
Women who continue to lift weights throughout pregnancy tend to take a lot of flack. But, if you follow a specific guideline, you and your baby will be safe.
Using the machines at the gym (or at home) is great because they control your range of motion. However, if you’ve been lifting free range weights for a while, you’re already familiar with your body’s limitations.
When using a machine, remember to steer clear of any that put pressure on your belly. Also, avoid lying flat on your back when you lift. And, aim for repetition rather than increasing your weight. Dumbbells weighing 2-5 pounds are typically your best option.
Practical Tips to Consider
As much as we would all love to be free and clear of negative comments, remember that there will always be someone giving you unmerited advice. Statements like, “put that down” or “you shouldn’t be lifting that” are all too common.
Keep in mind that all pregnancies are not created equal. Women are different and each of your pregnancies may be different as well. What works for one woman may not work for you. Moreover, what worked for a previous pregnancy may only cause aches and pains for this one.
It’s important to listen to your body. Know and respect the shape you’re in and your medical history.
Also, keep your trimester in mind. Your body and center of gravity changes with each new trimester. Therefore, so should your physical limitations.
Most of all, shift your motherly heroism toward creating a healthy baby rather than forcing your physical requirements to remain unchanged. After all, everyone already knows you’re tough!