Becoming a mom involves a lot of lifting, and I'm not talking about dumbbells. From carrying your kids, shopping, car seats, strollers, and a bump in pregnancy, being a mother requires a strong body.
In years past, expectant mothers have been told to lighten the load and not lift anything heavy during pregnancy, but that line of thought is now being reversed. Unless there is a medical condition that does not require lifting, expectant mothers and new mothers benefit from iron pumping not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.
So if you're planning to conceive, are currently pregnant, or are already a mom, now is the perfect time to get your body and mind toning from head to toe with good old-fashioned weightlifting.
(Always consult your doctor/OBGYN before beginning any exercise program; especially if you are pregnant or if you have recently had a cesarean.)
Here's how to determine if lifting weights while pregnant is right for you
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"Especially during pregnancy, there's a collective cultural concern about weightlifting that it could harm the baby's health," says Rachel Trotta, a NASM-certified personal trainer who specializes in women's fitness, prenatal and postnatal, and nutrition. Luckily it's just the opposite.
"In pregnancy, the top two metrics we can use to assess the appropriateness of an exercise are the mother's fitness level at the start of pregnancy and the health of both mother and baby at the current stage of pregnancy," says Trotta.
Simply put, if you lifted weights regularly prior to pregnancy and pass your doctor appointments with flying colors, "you'll likely need to gradually reduce the weight as your pregnancy progresses, but you can continue exercising at a relatively high difficulty level," says Trotta.
This not only strengthens your current body, but also your postpartum self.
On the other hand: "If a woman did not lift weights before pregnancy or has a high-risk pregnancy, this nine-month window is not the right time to start," explains Trotta.
Remember, "If a healthy, experienced, pregnant weightlifter can effectively control intra-abdominal pressure during heavy lifts (i.e., fail to use the Valsalva maneuver — a lifting technique in which you hold your breath during the lift to gain more stability around the around your stomach (spine), there's no pelvic reason to stop lifting during pregnancy, especially when the weight is gradually tapered off," says Trotta.
Good news for moms who love weightlifting!
Lifting weights during pregnancy will lead you to success
Photo by Ignacio Campo on Unsplash
We all know what it feels like after a good lifting session: exhausted, in a good mood and ready for the day. However, lifting weights goes beyond the body's strength and increases "feel good" hormones like serotonin. "The positive effects of weightlifting on mood, endocrine health, endurance, balance and sheer strength are incredibly beneficial for a woman during pregnancy," says Trotta.
"I remember my stomach getting so incredibly heavy when I was pregnant - it was like having a 30-pound slamball strapped in front of my body. Any activity, even getting up off the floor, became more difficult,” she recalls.
“The benefits of continuing to squat, squat, and deadlift even as the weights got lighter have been tremendous for my sense of self-efficacy; I never had trouble tying my shoes, shaving my legs, or getting up off the floor, and that gave me strength," she says.
So, for those days when you don't feel like picking up the weights, think about how much stronger you'll be in the long run if you do.
Weightlifting Benefits After Pregnancy For The High Demands Of Being A New Mom
There's a reason moms are called superheroes. "Once the baby is on earth, new mothers are often overwhelmed by the physical demands of new motherhood - carrying an 8-pound baby is surprisingly tiring, and repetitive things like picking your baby off the floor or the cradle can be overwhelming strain your back. Shoulders and hips,” explains Trotta.
This is a solid reason why a strong pre-pregnancy body can help de-stress your body during pregnancy and even help with overuse injuries.
"Being strong for new parenthood is a key benefit because it reduces pain and makes it easier to do things like rocking or rocking your baby to sleep," says Trotta.
That doesn't mean you'll be lifting weights the day after the birth. Your body needs the appropriate amount of time to rest and recover; both physically and mentally.
Embrace balance while recovering after childbirth
Eva-Katalin / Getty
Sometimes resting is not easy, but it is a must for good healing and a stronger body in the long term. “After pregnancy, we have to embrace balance and consider recovery. It's not just tears and stitches - it's also the complex, slow remodeling of your core and pelvic floor.' says Trotta. And that goes for women who consistently lifted and built a strong body before pregnancy.
“Even for a woman who has lifted weights before [and during] pregnancy, it's wise to spend the first few months doing lots of walking, breathing exercises, mobility work, and strategic strengthening," says Trotta, encouraging young mothers not to be hasty after childbirth. Over time, by taking care of your body and seeking advice from a qualified postpartum specialist, you'll be back to your old routine in no time.
"Lay the foundation for a strong return," urges Trotta.
"Exercises like bridges, cat-cow, and bird-dog can feel very challenging postpartum when done with proper form and breathing," says Trotta. (Check out this article on single-leg exercises that will guide you in this area, as Trotta provides step-by-step instructions.)
The itching may subside, but it's important to wait around six weeks after giving birth
If you're a veteran lifter, just starting out, or just have an itch to lift, it's best to wait at least six weeks postpartum to introduce weightlifting.
“While it takes about four to 12 months for the pelvic floor muscles to fully recover and return to (almost) pre-pregnancy dimensions (and this requires patience), postpartum, most weightlifters find that starting even with moderate exertion is a A break is both a challenge and a satisfying one,” says Trotta. She continues: “Introduce connection again
Movements like deadlifts, hip thrusts, squats, and single-leg training will quickly pay dividends in improving strength and quality of life.”
Let's talk about post-baby exercises
Be aware that some exercises can put stress on your pelvic floor (a very sensitive area at this point that needs to be strengthened slowly and responsibly) if done incorrectly. But "exercises like squats and deadlifts can improve pelvic floor strength when done with good technique and breathing," says Trotta. "A deadlift with a good exhalation and a pelvic floor contraction (followed by full pelvic relaxation) or a front squat with good posture and breathing is good for the pelvic floor, not harmful."
However, getting stronger (carefully) may require different techniques than what you're used to. "It's important to note that strength training exercises that involve breathing, control, and confidence are different from lifting weights in a high-intensity, competitive fitness class," says Trotta.
Listening to your body while strengthening your pelvic floor requires you to be in tune with your body like never before. "Promoting pelvic floor health when lifting heavy weights means listening to your body, being mindful of your exercise choices, and gradually increasing the intensity—in the fourth trimester and beyond," says Trotta.
Also, "As new parents, it's easy to get involved with baby care, and it doesn't necessarily get easier as the child grows," adds Trotta. "Having an empowering hobby like weightlifting, where you can enjoy the release of endorphins, the satisfaction of progress, and connection to an identity outside of parenthood, is incredibly healthy for new moms."