• Dr Peter Chew

Lifting heavy objects during pregnancy. Is it safe?

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Because of bodily changes, it is generally advised that the pregnant mother should not carry heavy objects especially repetitive lifting as this may have negative impact on maternal and foetal health.

Abdominal aches and cramps are common during pregnancy. This is due to the enlarging womb stretching the surrounding supporting ligaments and abdominal muscles. Lifting heavy object will cause more cramps and stitches.

Hormonal changes may loosen the joints and muscles around the pelvic girdle. Increase in the abdominal pressure during heavy lifting may result in involuntary leaking of urine (stress incontinence) and a dull aching sensation around the back and pelvic area.

The centre of gravity of the body is also shifted forward during pregnancy. It is easy for the mother to lose her balance and fall during lifting. A serious fall may be risky to both the mother and the foetus as it may lead to premature labour or premature separation of the placenta. Besides, lifting may cause more strain to her spine and may aggravate the low backache which may be already present.

Impact of Heavy Lifting During Pregnancy

Although it is uncertain whether heavy lifting would affect foetal health, some research studies have suggested that it may increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, smaller baby at birth (intrauterine growth restriction) and high blood pressure slightly. It is assumed that increased abdominal pressure and reduced blood flow to the womb during lifting may be the reasons.

A potentially severe complication to the mother is a hernia which may require a surgical repair later on in life.

According to the guidelines by American Medical Association (see fig 1):

For repetitive lifting beginning in the 24th week or intermittent lifting beginning in the 30th week of pregnancy, up to 51 pounds (around 23Kg) is permitted.

In the final week of pregnancy, less than 24 pounds(10.8Kg) is allowed for repetitive and less than 31 pounds (14 Kg) for intermittent lifting

If it is necessary for the mother to lift or carry anything, she should

· Hold the object close to her body.

· Bend your knees, rather than the back, Keep the back straight.

· Try not to twist or make jerking or sudden movements while lifting

· Wear non-slippery shoes

· Avoid lifting things from the floor or things overhead.

· Avoid lifting with one hand or while sitting or kneeling

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