Thursday, 19 September 2013

Weight Lifting When Pregnant: Is it Okay?

weight lifting in pregnancy
Weight training in pregnancy has become a bit of a contentious issue over the last 24-hours. After a cross fit gym posted images of one LA mother continuing with her usual exercise regimen—which, yes, involves weights—Facebook erupted. Although said mother reportedly attracted some support, many were fast to describe her as “Sickening.” Despite how shocking this may seem, there is evidence to suggest that weight-bearing exercise in pregnancy may be beneficial.

Why the Fuss?

As some commenters on Facebook have quite rightly pointed out, shouldn’t we be more concerned with those who gorge on McDonald’s during their pregnancies? Our media has a tendency to lambast pregnant celebrities who are out and about jogging or going to the gym. During Denise Van Outen’s pregnancy, the Daily Mail was quick to write an aghast article about her jogging during her third trimester. Oh, please spare us the horror! Similarly, tabloids were fast to highlight that Kim Kardashian had been to the gym hours before her appendicitis scare--at this point they were assuming she did have appendicitis. Note to journalists: there is no causal link between treadmills and appendicitis.

The point is, we have a tendency to criticise the most prominent pregnant figures in our society for the most bizarre of things. Selfies, tweeting, working out—it seems there is nothing a pregnant woman can do right in accordance with the tabloid guidelines to life. This may contribute to why we look at someone lifting weights and gasp. At the same time, we are most likely recovering from these neo-Victorian ideas that pregnant women are entirely fragile and overly delicate. Sorry guys, but pregnancy is tough, and so are women.

Is There a Danger?

No two women and their pregnancies are the same. While it would be inadvisable for a couch potato to march into her gym and begin competing with the roiders there, this isn’t the same for our LA lady. She cross trains, she has cross trained before her pregnancy, and so she is pushing her body within its limits. The main dangers come from potential trauma, which could occur if she were to fall over. However, if we can assume she is a mentally competent woman who doesn’t require the usual expertise of those commenting from their armchairs, we can also assume she knows whether she is likely to lift a set of weights and fall onto her nicely cushioned foetus.

The problem with giving a conclusive answer to this is that it is under researched. Time and time again, we hear that pregnant women shouldn’t move heavy things. Again, there is no danger to the baby when a woman lifts something heavy—she is only at risk because her centre of balance is slightly out of whack. Again, women are competent beings, and so we can usually put two-and-two together when the gravity centres in our brain come a knocking and put the heavy objects down sharpish. We don’t need the pious patrol to dictate when and what we can do.

Anyway, slight digression there. This is a poorly researched area. It is unethical to simply force a group of women into an RCT or cohort study and begin testing weight limitations. RCOG acknowledges that there are some benefits to weight bearing exercises, including an easier birth. However, they also clearly state that pregnant women need to use their judgement and ensure they are not in danger of toppling over.

Rather than lambasting mothers for engaging in workouts, let’s encourage them. Again, it would be silly to go from novice to cross fitter during your pregnancy. However, you can exercise when pregnant, you can try to increase your exercise routine, and you will have an easier birth as a result. We can only suggest steering well clear of a rugby pitch—even if Johnny Wilkinson is on it.