Is It Safe To Lift Weight During Pregnancy?

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Following a prenatal exercise routine can benefit the health of pregnant women and make the birthing process easier (1). Hence, some women try to lift weights while pregnant to boost their strength. However, while walking, running, and swimming are safe exercises for most mothers, is weightlifting safe while pregnant? Knowing the answer to this question is essential to determine your choice of exercise, which may affect your and your baby’s health.

Keep reading to understand if it is safe to lift weights during pregnancy, its risks, the weight lifting exercises you should and shouldn’t try, and the precautions you should observe.

Safety Of Weight Lifting During Pregnancy

In most cases, physical activities and lifting weights during the initial months of pregnancy (first trimester) are safe and may even benefit the mother and the fetus (2). Exercising with lighter weights could strengthen the muscles and make weight loss after delivery easier. However, it is advised to consult your doctor before beginning weight lifting, even in the first trimester. Your doctor could guide you on how much weight you can lift safely based on your overall health and experience with weight lifting.

Benefits Of Weight Lifting While Pregnant

Lifting light weights during the early months of pregnancy and moderate exercise may provide you the following benefits (3) (4).

  • Minimizes the risks of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
  • Promotes healthy weight gain
  • Reduces back pain by strengthening the back and abdomen muscles
  • Improves heart health and strengthens blood vessels
  • Helps improve posture

Weight Lifting Exercises To Do While Pregnant

Once your healthcare provider permits weight training, there are various types of weight-related exercises that you may consider.

  • Lifting lighter weights, such as dumbbells and kettlebells, while in the seated position.
  • Resistance weight machines for training. Prefer those that keep you in a neutral, seated position, preventing any strain on your belly.
  • Weight lifting exercises that you may perform while standing, without bending your back much, or squeezing your tummy.

Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy

Avoid the following exercises that might increase the risk of preterm birth or induce preterm labor (5).

  • Any form of contact sports or abdominal exercises that might increase the risk of hurting your stomach.
  • Activities that might risk you falling or hurting yourself.
  • Hot yoga or hot Pilates might increase your body temperature and overexert you.
  • Vigorous exercise involving a lot of stretching and lifting overhead.
  • Heavy lifting activities, such as deadlifts, which require you to bend in the forward direction.
  • Push-ups or any other strenuous bodyweight exercise.
  • Exercising in weight machines where you need to stay in a position that places constant strain on your back or belly.

Precautions To Take When Lifting Weight In Pregnancy

A few important things that you need to keep in mind while lifting weights during pregnancy are (6):

  • Avoid laying straight on your back or belly as this might interfere with the blood flow to the fetus.
  • Make sure that you are careful of your abdomen. Avoid any exercise where there is a chance of the weights hitting the abdomen.
  • Do not bend your back while lifting objects. It is advised to bend your knees while going down and getting up with the help of support.
  • Refrain from lifting heavy weights as this might strain your back and abdomen.
  • Do not overexert yourself. Take breaks between exercise sets and drink plenty of water.
  • Do not lift weights over your head level as it may strain your back.
  • Avoid weight lifting beyond the first trimester since your baby’s weight will increase, making it strenuous to lift extra weights.
  • If you are expecting twins or triplets or have anemia or preeclampsia, you shouldn’t stress yourself out with lifting.

When To Call A Doctor

You should always be cautious while lifting weights during pregnancy. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following signs during or after weight lifting (3).

  • Bleeding in the vagina
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased or no fetal movement
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

These events may often occur due to lifting weights that are too heavy, increasing the risk of preterm birth or miscarriage (7).

Lifting light weights during the early months of pregnancy may be safe for most women. You must take your doctor’s approval first and stick to lighter weights, such as light dumbbells and kettlebells. It is best to avoid strenuous weightlifting exercises, such as those that involve barbells. You may explore several other pregnancy-safe exercises, which do not strain your body and are safe for you and your growing baby.


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Sanjana Bhattacharjee

Sanjana did her post graduation in Applied Microbiology from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. Her interest in science and health, combined with her passion to write made her convert from a scientist to a writer. She believes her role at MomJunction combines the best of both worlds as she writes health-based content based on scientific evidence. Sanjana is trained in classical... more