A pregnant woman's body is designed to endure the physical exertion of everyday life, specially cushioned to protect a fetus from the world outside the womb. Most women are told to avoid lifting more than about five pounds, largely out of concern for the developing baby, and to prevent maternal injury. The exact weight limits recommended for each woman can vary wildly, and lifting some things just can’t be avoided -- like when you already have a small child or children.
When you already have a little one or two, you don't have the luxury of kicking back and relaxing a little bit when you find yourself great with child. Children who are getting closer to 5 or so may figure out why you can no longer cart them around like you did a few months ago, while toddler might have a hard time understanding your sudden lack of physical attention. Not to mention that carrying around two kids, even when one's in the womb, is no easy feat! Here’s a look at the best ways to pick up your children (and other reasonably weighted items) safely while you’re pregnant.
Risks of Heavy Lifting
Lifting too much weight while you’re pregnant really can be bad -- for both you and your baby, especially if it's done incorrectly. First, pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments to soften, helping the pelvis to widen in preparation for childbirth. These softer ligaments can cause the joints to also be less stable than they used to be. A melon sized abdomen also shifts your center of gravity forward, making it easier to lose your balance and fall. Not only is that really painful for you, but falling can be harmful for baby, potentially inciting preterm labor or premature separation of the placenta.
When Lifting Isn't Safe
Just like every woman, every pregnancy is different, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what’s safe for you. Unless your obstetrician or midwife gives you the go ahead, there’s no “safe” lifting. Namely, women who have been diagnosed with any type of pregnancy complication should strictly adhere to their doctor’s orders in this regard.
Tips for Lifting
- Maintain a stable stance, feet planted firmly -- about shoulder width apart.
- Squat down and use your legs to bear as much of the weight as possible as you stand.
- Face the child (or whatever else you're trying to life); avoid twisting during lifting.
- Don't lean over. Bending at the waist as you lift puts all the stress on your back.
- Move slowly, making one smooth motion.
- Let the child climb onto you, instead of trying to boost them up.
- Try not to carry the child (or other weight) on one hip all the time. If your belly is too large for another position, switch hips often. Otherwise, keep your load balanced to maintain good posture and your center of gravity.
- Put what the child down if you notice any strain, particularly in areas you shouldn’t.
- Ask for help when you need it.
In general, a few safe habits can make lifting much easier (and give you much less anxiety) when you’re expecting. As you get closer to your due date, be even more careful about your position. If anything changes, talk to your doctor again before lifting anything else.