Overhead Movements during Pregnancy. Are they safe?

In everything we do, pregnant or not, risk vs benefit is a consideration. When it comes to doing work overhead during pregnancy, that still holds true. Now, I was once told an old wive’s tale (aka superstition) that you can’t lift overhead AT ALL during pregnancy because it will cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. Wowzer…that is a lot of pressure to put on a mama. The good news is, that has zero backing by science!

What are the risks of lifting overhead while pregnant?

The main concern with lifting overhead during pregnancy is if there is more going on and you shouldn’t exercise in general (spotting/bleeding, rupture of membranes, onset of labor, acute illness, complete placenta previa).

The second concern is for the pressure that working overhead may have on the abdominal wall (aka, will it cause a diastasis?). If you dump your core into your abdomen during overhead movements, it is possible to increase diastasis but lifting overhead does not mean you will develop a diastasis. See the video below for a better understanding of what it means to dump into your core and to learn how to lift overhead without adding pressure to the abdomen.

What are the benefits of lifting overhead?

You can continue to live life. That sounds a tad bit extreme but if we limited all overhead movements for many that means no longer being able to reach basic household items. Those towels are on the top shelf? Welp, I guess you can’t dry off. My coffee mugs are on the top shelf and that would just result in Dr. Cranky-Pants if I didn’t have my daily cup of joe.

Beyond living life, working overhead with proper movement can actually help stabilize the shoulder joint. Moms frequently have shoulder, upper back and neck pain after the baby is born and they are spending their days staring at their adorable newborns. Continuing to work overhead can help keep those areas both stable and mobile. The one caveat is if you are used to lifting heavy in the gym. It’s important to make sure your form is spot-on because we don’t want to risk dropping the barbell on the belly. It’s also generally recommended to decrease weight to 70% 1RM in 2nd trimester and 50% in 3rd trimester.

Lifting your arms over your head while pregnant, a how-to:

Check out the video below for how to lift to maintain appropriate form and not add increased pressure on the abdomen. And as always, don’t forget to breathe! ;)

Join Dr. Lauren for a free 15-minute Healthy mama consult to help create a personalized plan for moving or lifting during pregnancy or postpartum.