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Weightlifting During Pregnancy + After Having Kids

Many women are now weight training seriously in ever-greater numbers. As a result it is inevitable that many will become pregnant and worry about how best to adapt their training to the demands of pregnancy and childcare.

The good news is that active women with normal, low-risk pregnancies do not have to give up their beloved weight training in order to keep themselves and baby healthy.

Years ago there wasn't much clinical research research on this topic, but there has been a lot more research in recent years and we have some good news on the topic.

The 1994 bulletin of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that there is no data to indicate that pregnant women should limit exercise intensity and lower target heart rates because of potential adverse effects.
In 2001 the Canadian guidelines were updated to indicate that regular exercise has a number of benefits and few drawbacks for pregnant women.

Ideally women should be fit and active before getting pregnant, so if you are thinking of conceiving, begin an exercise program now. Better sooner than later!

Here are some tips!

#1. Do not begin a new exercise program during pregnancy. Pregnancy is not the time to make any drastic physical changes.

#2. Stick to your current exercise routine. Don't become sedentary just because you are a few weeks pregnant.

#3. Around the 7th or 8th month you may wish to avoid highly strenuous activities. Switch to lighter weights or easier exercises.

#4. After giving birth you may wish to step up your routine to include more cardio and weightlifting, if you have the time. Ignore the old wives tales that exercise will cause you to sour the milk, your uterus will fall out, etc. Those are just nonsense.

“Muscle conditioning” exercise (i.e. weight trainng) is very low-risk and safe. Just ignore the myths.

Studies have shown no increase in acidity of breast milk after moms exercise. Regular postnatal exercise reduces or eliminates most of the unpleasant postpartum symptoms of physical and mental stress, depression, and so forth, as well as promoting a faster recovery. Postpartum exercise also helps promote insulin sensitivity.

#5. Exercise with your kids. Children of moms who exercised before, during, and after pregnancy were shown to be relatively leaner themselves five years later. Your kids are watching you and pick up your good habits.

#6. Don't Give Up After Having Kids. Many women cease exercising after having children. The two primary reasons for quitting exercise are significant weight gain during the pregnancy (which can be remedied) and the demands of care from children - who will themselves want to run around as they reach the walking age.

#7. Daddies Can Exercise Too! Your kids keep getting bigger... use them as weights! You will get stronger as they get older!

#8. Government Child Care and similar support systems for pregnant women can enable them to continue to exercise during and after pregnancy. You can find time to do these activities thanks to government help.

#9. Later in the pregnancy avoid exercises which involve lying on the back, or pressing against the stomach, or excessive bending forward. You may need to modify or eliminate those exercises.

#10. Avoid excessive head movement, such as stiff-legged deadlifts, if they cause nausea or dizziness. Avoid prolonged periods of standing. Balance will eventually be a concern, so in the second and third trimester, reduce and eventually eliminate Olympic lifts and perform demanding overhead lifts while seated.

#11. Avoid training too much. There is a lot of research into women training too much (or too little) and this resulting in a low birth weight. A higher birth weight means a healthier baby. Women who exercised more than 5 times weekly and fewer than 2 times weekly were both at risk for having lower birth weight babies. Aim for a happy medium of 3.5 times per week.

#12. Keep a Journal! Record eating, training, workout reports, notes on how you feel, heart rate, recovery, etc.

Common Concerns During Pregnancy

Joint Laxity

This is a crucial issue for weight trainers. The body “softens” connective tissue in order to prepare for delivery. Great for pelvic expansion during the crucial moments, not so great for folks trying to keep

their kneecaps stuck to their legs during training. On the plus side, strong muscles help to hold things together and improve overall stability, so strength training will be helpful as long as care is exercised.


Another significant issue for weight trainers. Dress to stay cool, drink lots of fluids (even though you’ll feel like you have to pee every ten minutes), get a fan on you if possible, and monitor the situation

during your training sessions. If you need a break to cool down, take one. Oxygen will be less available to you, and you will find that in later months of pregnancy, the baby presses upwards on your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe deeply.


Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, but hey, you knew that didn’t you? It is often difficult for female athletes to accept the inevitable weight gain that occurs during pregnancy, but this isn’t a time to diet or be nutritionally stingy. You may notice wild fluctuations in blood sugar (and sudden cravings), so try to eat at regular intervals and not go more than a couple of hours without a snack or small meal. In the first trimester you may be limited in what you can tolerate, and formerly appealing things may make you feel sick, but this is usually restricted to the first three or four months. You may experience an increase in appetite, including nearly uncontrollable cravings for carbohydrates (mmmm... donuts). This does not signify weakness or gluttony on your part; let the hormones do their work and get a balanced diet as best you can.

Don't enter pie eating contests however. That is just silliness.

Vitamin Supplementation

There is also a lack of research on the effects of Creatine during pregnancy, so don't use any.

Avoid caffeine, thermogenics and stimulants.

Hormonally-based substances, including prohormones, is a huge no-no at this time.

Fish oil is a highly recommended supplement for pregnant women, but there still needs to be more research on that topic.


Medical supervision and ongoing monitoring = Regular checkups and keeping your doctor up to date with any symptoms.

One of the most common problems encountered by pregnant women is back pain. Their center of gravity shifts and extra weight is added over nine months. Women tend to slouch the shoulders and arch the lower back to compensate for these changes, which of course leads to discomfort due to bad posture. A strong abdominal column as well as a strong back gained through weight training before pregnancy can alleviate much of this problem, so resistance work geared to this need is helpful. Bodyweight exercises, such as unweighted squats, present a useful alternative as the pregnancy develops, as do exercises which take some weight off the joints, such as swimming or cycling.

Postpartum urinary incontinence - After giving birth, many women notice problems with mild to moderate urinary incontinence during exertion, such as squatting or deadlifting. Kegel exercises are a must during pregnancy and after delivery. Avoid caffeine, go to the bathroom before your workout, wear a pad, and remember that there are a lot of other women out there experiencing the same thing.

You may also notice hemorrhoids which are aggravated by lifting. Normal and treatable.

Sleep. Naps are good for you and your baby.

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