Getting exercise during pregnancy will help keep you and your growing baby healthy, but rigorous exercises such as weight lifting can increase your risk of injury. You will need to adjust your routine to accommodate your rapidly changing body, to get the most benefits for the least amount of risk.
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Potential Risks of Lifting
You may have heard warnings against lifting over 25 lbs. during pregnancy, but lifting large amounts of weight won’t necessarily cause injury to your baby. However, you may cause physical injury to your own body if you lift too much weight at once. One reason is because pregnancy hormones cause your body’s tendons, ligaments and connective tissues to soften to prepare for childbirth, making them more vulnerable to strain. Additionally, your balance and center of gravity change as your body grows. One way that weight lifting could directly affect your baby is if a free weight comes into direct contact with your abdomen. Resistance bands can offer the same benefits to your muscles without increasing your baby’s risk.
Limitations and Considerations
Limit your weight load to no more than about 5 to 12 lbs. to reduce your risk of overloading your joints, recommends the BabyCenter website. To compensate for the weight reduction, perform more reps. For example, if you used to perform leg presses with about 24 lbs. for eight to 12 reps, reduce the weight to 12 lbs. and repeat 15 to 20 times.
Avoid lying flat on your back while lifting weights after the first trimester, as the position may lead to too much pressure on a major vein and reduce the amount of blood that flows to your brain and your uterus. Also avoid standing upright and still as you lift weights, as it may lead to blood pooling in your legs and contribute to dizziness or fainting. Combat both potential problems by sitting, tilting up the bench and remaining in an upright position as you strengthen your body. Additionally, don’t perform the Valsalva maneuver, which involves exhaling forcefully without releasing air, as it may rapidly boost your intra-abdominal and blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen your baby receives.
Obtain clearance from your midwife or doctor before you attempt to lift weights or engage in any other form of exercise. Your health care provider may instruct you to make dramatic changes in your exercise regimen or request that you fully avoid lifting weights during your pregnancy if you have a history of pregnancy complications. Even if you do get the thumbs up from your health care provider, you are responsible for paying attention to your body for the duration of every workout. Reduce the intensity or frequency of your exercise if you feel excessively fatigued or strained.