Weightlifting and Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a time of great uncertainty and conflicting information. Many pregnant people feel like they are suddenly subject to a lot of rules they need to follow without good explanations of why the rules exist. In fact, a lot of pregnancy guidelines are based more on subjective professional opinion than on strong empirical evidence. There are many reasons for this, but one major barrier to conducting robust studies is that it is ethically complex to perform randomized controlled trials (the gold standard for medical research) on pregnant people.

The good news is more and more researchers and health care providers are re-examining common exercise guidelines for pregnant people. For example, one exciting study came out in the International Urogynecology Journal in 2023 that updates our understanding of weightlifting during pregnancy. The authors surveyed 679 pregnant people to ask about their recreational weightlifting habits during pregnancy as well as their pregnancy and delivery outcomes.

The bottom line: For pregnant people who were already lifting weights, maintaining that practice was actually beneficial during pregnancy. This included Olympic weightlifting, lifts laying on your back, and even valsalva maneuvers (holding your breath during lifts). The authors write, “Respondents who maintained pre-pregnancy training levels until delivery reported significantly less pregnancy and delivery complications than those who reduced their training level prior to delivery.” For example, rates of pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension were similar or lower in the weight training group vs. the general population. The study authors additionally found “substantially lower rates of postpartum depression and anxiety” in the group that continued to weightlift throughout pregnancy. Finally, the authors found weightlifters were less likely to undergo cesarean deliveries.

One important distinction here is that the study looked specifically at recreational weightlifting. The authors carefully note that there have been studies demonstrating increased risk of miscarriage, preeclampsia, and preterm delivery amongst pregnant people who perform repetitive lifting in an occupational environment. This nuance is important, because repetitive lifting without time to recover or in a stressful work environment could still be detrimental to a pregnant person. Fortunately, recreational lifting allows you to rest, recover, and listen to your body.

While these results are exciting, it is also still important to consult your health care provider before initiating any exercise program while pregnant, as individual risk factors need to be taken into consideration. However, this study provides compelling evidence that if you were already weightlifting before pregnancy, you should feel empowered to discuss continuing your routine with your provider!

Here at Sage, we are excited to help you feel empowered and healthy during your pregnancy. For some of you, this may include continued guidance on your weightlifting routine. Other peoples’ physical activity goals may be running as long as they feel comfortable, maintaining climbing gym training with safety modifications, or simply finding creative ways to keep moving during the day. For other pregnant people, pain complications such as pubic symphysis pain or sacroiliac joint pain may make it hard to roll over in bed, let alone weightlift! The goals are as varied and complex as we are as individuals. Regardless of your specific goals, you can rest assured the providers at Sage are committed to helping you achieve those goals and feel the best you can while your body goes through the incredible changes of pregnancy.

Written by Johanna Leader, PT, DPT

You can find the full text article here:

You can also listen to a podcast reviewing this paper here: