Is It Safe To Bend Over When Pregnant?

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You may have often heard people telling you not to bend over when pregnant. Even some pregnant women believe that bending over may adversely harm their baby. But, you might wonder if bending is always harmful to you or the baby? What underlying factors state that bending is dangerous during pregnancy?

This post is intended to answer such questions and concerns you may have about bending posture during pregnancy.

How Safe Is It To Bend During Pregnancy?

For a woman enjoying a healthy pregnancy sans any complications, bending seldom harms maternal and fetal health. The amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus serves as a protective shield (1). However, as the pregnancy progresses, the growing baby bump may make it difficult for an expectant mother to bend down.

Parmeet Kaur, pelvic floor specialist from Calgary, Alberta, says, “When pregnant, it is safe to bend over. The baby is well cushioned by the abdominal muscles, uterine wall, and amniotic fluid, allowing them to move around freely. However, there are some risks associated with bending over during later stages of pregnancy, such as tripping or losing balance and falling. Therefore, it is best to avoid bending over during the later stages of your pregnancy, especially if you are not comfortable doing so.”

When Is It Safe Or Not Safe To Bend During Pregnancy?

In any stage of pregnancy, bend at your knees, not waist

Image: Shutterstock

Experts say there is no problem in bending as long as it is done in the correct manner, that is at the hip joint rather than at the spine and at the knees The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that the safety of bending during pregnancy can depend on several factors, including the woman’s health, general physical activity, and stage of pregnancy (2).

However, the NIOSH observes that “Jobs involving very high physical demands, for example bending at the waist more than 20 times per day may increase risks for some adverse birth outcomes.”

In the first trimester, a woman can bend without any impact on the fetus, which is still quite small in size. However, if there are complications in the pregnancy, then your doctor might ask you not to bend too often. Bending may not be a problem in the second trimester as well. However, it might cause some inconvenience to you.

In the third trimester, the growing baby bump brings about a shift in the center of gravity (3) and as a result, you may lose balance while bending. Therefore, you need to be extra careful.

In any stage of pregnancy, it is good to bend at your knees rather than bending at your waist.

Inconveniences Caused By Bending During Pregnancy

 The growing baby may strain the back muscles

Image: iStock

Physical movements such as bending might become difficult during pregnancy as your body weight increases each month. Along with general difficulty, the following are a few other inconveniences you might have when bending during pregnancy.

  • Pain in the lower back: The growing baby can weaken the abdominal muscles and put extra strain on the back muscles. It can lead to back pain. Bending forward at this stage may further aggravate the back pain (3).
Be watchful
Any back pain that is severe or lasts longer than two weeks needs medical attention as it could be one of the signs of preterm labor (3).
  • Acid reflux and heartburn: Research suggests that bending might aggravate gastroesophageal reflux and heartburn, especially during the second and third trimesters (4). Bending may exert extra pressure on the stomach, thus making the stomach acid to reflux into the food pipe.
Caution
Avoid bending over immediately after a meal to help prevent acid reflux and heartburn (6).
  • Dizziness: Sometimes, bending too often during the third trimester causes increased blood flow to the head, resulting in dizziness.

What Causes The Stomach To Hurt While Bending During Pregnancy?

The pain may be an outcome of a muscle strain or minor muscular injury. Hormones during pregnancy can loosen joints and relax muscles. It may increase susceptibility to pain while performing physical tasks like bending during pregnancy. It is good to report about any pain to your doctor.

While occasional bending is not known to cause any internal problems, you need to be careful to avoid any accidents.

Kaur says, “As a pregnant woman’s baby grows, the ligaments in the uterus also grow. While you are pregnant, you might feel a sharp pain when moving or changing positions. This pain is often localized around your low belly and groin; it is called round ligament pain. I advise patients to take precautions such as avoiding sudden movements and bending from the waist to help reduce the occurrence of round ligament pain.”

Precautions To Follow While Bending Down During Pregnancy

If you need to bend for some reason, then you may follow these precautions.

  • If you need to pick or lift an object from the ground, then bend your knees, and get into a squat position, instead of bending your back. The idea is to bend at the knees and not the waist (3). This posture may reduce the chances of falling and could reduce exertion on the back.

Kaur recommends, “Always tuck your chin and keep your back straight to avoid straining the lower back muscles. If you need to pick something up from the floor, squat down instead of bending over. I tell my patients to avoid bending at the waist if it hurts, use your legs to bend in a squatting-like motion.”

  • You should also be careful while getting up from a sitting position. Do not get up with a jerk. Instead, use your hands, knees, and thighs to get up slowly while keeping your back straight to prevent strain.
  • Avoid lifting and holding a heavy object below mid-shin, that is holding it while still bending. It can cause prolonged strain on the back muscles and may also shift the center of gravity, thus increasing the risk of a fall.

Along with precautions while bending, you may practice some safe body postures during pregnancy.

Tips To Maintain Healthy Body Postures During Pregnancy

Be it sitting, standing, or driving, maintaining proper body postures helps avert any strain during pregnancy.

  • Posture while sitting: Keep your spine and shoulders straight while seated. Avoid slumping into the chair. For a good posture, tilt your pelvis forward to prevent the back from sagging. Keep your feet touched to the ground and avoid crossing them since it may impair blood circulation (5).

Image: Shutterstock

  • Posture while standing: Keep your feet a bit apart and your pelvis inwards by tucking your buttocks to the inside. Hold the knees in a relaxed position and shoulders held back instead of hunching. Distribute the body weight evenly on both feet.

Image: Shutterstock

  • Posture while driving: You can use a small pillow or a rolled towel to give your back the necessary support. Adjust your driving seat in such a way that there is a good gap between the steering wheel and your baby bump. Place your knees higher or at a level with your hips (5).

Image: Shutterstock

You might have heard from your mom or other elders at home not to bend over when pregnant as it may cause pain and other discomforts. Although they are right to some extent, most experts consider it safe to bend during pregnancy, provided you do it correctly. However, performing chores that require you to bend when pregnant can be demanding. Moreover, if your occupation requires frequent bending, it is essential to take medical advice to comprehend the safety aspects and prevent the risk of complications in pregnancy.

Infographic: Precautions To Follow While Bending Down During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, there may be a lot of restrictions on certain movements for your and your baby’s safety. One such action is bending. Many pregnant women struggle due to their growing bellies. So here are the tips on how to bend and how not to bend while pregnant to stay safe.

how to safely bend during pregnancy [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Amniotic Fluid: Not Just Fetal Urine Anymore; Journal of Perinatology; Nature Research
2. Center For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC); Reproductive health and the workplace; The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH);last reviewed April 20, 2017
3. University of Rochester Medical Center; Back pain in pregnancy; Health Encyclopedia
4. Bhavadharini Ramu, et al., Prevalence and risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux in pregnancy; Researchgate.Net
5. University of Rochester Medical Center; Pregnancy and posture;Health Encyclopedia
6. Feeling the burn? Tips to manage heartburn, GERD in pregnancy; The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
7. Stomach (abdominal) pain or cramps in pregnancy; Tommy’s

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