Lee Ann Ellison, a 35 year old former body builder and mother of two, will most likely be the topic of discussion at future medical conferences and debates because there are limited studies regarding pregnant women lifting greater than 20 to 25 pounds during their pregnancy. Ellison allegedly lifts 190 pounds when not in her pregnant state and lifted 75 pounds during her 8th month of pregnancy or approximately 33 weeks.
What we do know is that there is a link between strenuous exercise and babies not growing properly also known as IUGR or intrauterine growth restriction. Pregnant moms who exercise strenuously are also at risk for delivering early. Of course, there are benefits to exercising during pregnancy which include reducing the risks of gestational diabetes and reducing the possibility of excessive weight gain. However all exercise plans for pregnant women should be approved by their healthcare provider and it is impossible to imagine that an obstetrician or midwife would give Ellison the green light regarding lifting 75 pounds above her head given the risk of (a) trauma to her abdomen, (b) accidental falls because the center of gravity is shifted in a pregnant uterus, (c) premature separation of the placenta in addition to a very slow or fast heart rate of the fetus if the blood flow to the uterus is compromised during these strenuous weight lifting exercises.
We know that scuba diving is prohibited during pregnancy because the fetus is unable to handle the bubbles (nitrogen gas) that form within the body’s tissues. We also know that downhill skiing, horseback riding and rigorous racquet ball and gymnastics are not encouraged during pregnancy. While Ellison’s passion for her exercise regime is admirable, she should be aware that the physiology of a non-pregnant body is quite different from a pregnant body.
Hopefully, Ellison will deliver a healthy baby that will not be affected by her extreme weightlifting. No, pregnancy is not an “illness” but it certainly does involve using common sense, especially if you want to have a healthy baby.