Why pregnant women shouldn’t carry heavy objects

Besides causing a possible miscarriage, SmartParents explains why carrying heavy objects during pregnancy is a no-no.

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Pregnant bodies undergo numerous changes to adapt to the baby’s growth. Your uterus expands, your hip joints loosen and your centre of gravity and balance shifts.

So, it’s important to realise that you may not be able to do the same things you did before you fell pregnant. The list of no-nos includes lifting heavy objects as it is associated with risks.

Risks linked to heavy lifting

Miscarriage and premature labour
If your pregnancy is deemed high-risk or at risk of premature labour, speak to your doctor before attempting any heavy lifting.

SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, points out, “If one is bleeding in the vagina, the blood clots needs to form well to stop bleeding. Lifting heavy objects can break this clot and bleeding can persist or get worse. In the first trimester, it can lead to miscarriage. It can also lead to premature labour for those who are at risk of it.”

“Chronic heavy lifting can put a strain and damage the pelvic floor further, leading to increased risks of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.”

Pelvic damage

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched. According to Dr Chong, many expectant women do not do pelvic floor exercises or Kegels (simple clench-and-release exercises to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor).

He warns, “Chronic heavy lifting can put a strain and damage the pelvic floor further, leading to increased risks of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.”

Falls
Your centre of gravity has now shifted as you are carrying a bump, which may put you off balance, especially when you bend or lean forward to pick something heavy. Falling is dangerous during pregnancy as it is risky for both the mum and baby, particularly so in the third trimester where a bad fall could lead to premature labour or separation of the placenta.

 

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Back strain
The pregnant womb adds a strain to the back of the pregnant mum. “Very often, expectant women do not have good posture, whether standing or sitting - hence there is chronic back strain. Any heavy lifting will make this worse and if the back is not taken care of well when pregnant, the back strain / ache may persist after delivery in the long term,” Chong cautions.

“Even if there is no back problem or strain to start with, lifting heavy objects can lead to back strain or even slipped disc if the patient is not careful,” he adds.

When is it too much?

Sure, you know you should avoid or minimise lifting heavy things during pregnancy but how do you know what is considered to be too heavy?

“Following America Medical Association guidelines, lifting more than 23kg is permitted repetitively for the first half of pregnancy (up to week 20) and intermittently through week 30. Between weeks 20 and 24, lifting up to 23kg repetitively is permitted. A weight limit of 11kg is specified after week 24 and after week 30, intermittent lifting up to 11kg is permitted,” says Michelle Kwong, principal physiotherapist at heal360 Physioclinic.

“Following America Medical Association guidelines, lifting more than 23kg is permitted repetitively for the first half of pregnancy (up to week 20) and intermittently through week 30.

Of course, this is just a guideline. Kwong adds that the woman should also consider other factors, such as if she has medical conditions like hypertension, back pain, her size, exercise tolerance and her fitness background before pregnancy.

“I would strongly advise expectant women to participate in a prenatal physiotherapy programme which will reduce injury risks and help to strengthen the spine and prepare for a smooth delivery,” she suggests.

Proper lifting techniques

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid lifting or carrying heavy objects during pregnancy, for instance, if you are carrying your older child. If you have to, then exercise caution and do it the right way.

Ask for help if you can, otherwise, follow the proper and safe lifting steps Kwong has outlined to minimise injury:

* Ensure footing is firm before you lift an object: Maintain a wide stance and keep the object close to you.

* Tighten stomach- and pelvic-floor muscles.

* To pick up an object that is lower than your waist level, keep your back straight and bend at the knees and hips.

* Lift the object slowly using your leg muscles. Do not jerk and twist back.

* Take small steps and go slowly.

* Get help, if needed!

Photos: iStock

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