You might have heard it from grandma? Or read it somewhere on the internet? Let’s set the record straight about one pregnancy myth. So you know when to be careful and when to get on with exercise and daily life without worrying.
Pregnant women should avoid pushing their arms above their heads during exercise – and daily life tasks.
For generations mothers have passed on their wisdom to mothers-to-be on how to protect their unborn child. Mixed in with some great advice and the best of intentions are some old wives tales. These no doubt developed in an attempt to explain unexplainable loss. One of these myths is that movements which involve extending your arms above your head can cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. So deeply was this believed that as recently as the 1960s women lowered the height of their washing lines to avoid overhead extension as they did the laundry.
Whilst tragic, this rare occurrence has nothing to do with the position of your arms. You can rest easy as you place your hands behind your head to relax or reach up to grab a fresh towel from the high shelf. And yes you can happily hang out your washing on a sunny day without adjusting your line height.
Exercises which involve pushing your arms above your head are also safe when it comes to your baby and the cord. There are however a few other considerations for both you and your bubs safety.
Movements that involve pushing a weight up above shoulder height redirect blood flow above heart level. Whilst safe for most, this is inadvisable for an expectant mum with high blood pressure. Since your GP, obstetrician, nurse, midwife, or even your personal trainer, will be taking your blood pressure at regular intervals throughout your pregnancy, it is unlikely that you will be unaware of this condition for long and therefore unknowingly putting yourself and your baby at risk with some light dumbbell shoulder press.
If you are diagnosed with higher blood pressure there are other exercises a professional can show you that are more appropriate – the flip side of the coin is that moderate exercise helps to control high blood pressure. So don’t stop everything unless your doctor advises you too.
Mixing up or alternating compound leg exercises and above the head movements, especially without rest, may create a competition between muscle groups needing extra blood and oxygen. If you tend towards low blood pressure this fast redistribution of blood flow between exercises may cause you to faint. Low blood pressure in itself is not dangerous in the way high blood pressure is. It is the possibility that you will fall and hurt yourself when you faint that is the concern.
Move more slowly between exercises and add a little vegemite or natural liquorice to your diet – and keep exercising as activity promotes healthy blood flow.
Overhead exercises challenge you to keep a correct posture at the best of times and this is even harder to do during pregnancy. If you tend to have an exaggerated arch in your back, known as lordosis, or experience back pain, keep an eye on your spinal position during these movements.
You can do overhead exercises seated, preferably on an exercise ball, rather than standing, use a lighter weight, or if needed, choose a non-overhead alternative. You do not need to persist with overhead movements if they are uncomfortable, the important thing is to keep lightly active.