How To Save Your Back
I am newly pregnant with my third child. We have two sons, ages three and five. What is the safest way to pick up and/or carry my children without harming my "baby"? - Mary in Orlando
The expert answers
The main concern in carrying your children is not the safety of your unborn child -- he or she is well tucked in -- but the safety of your back. (Keep in mind the Chinese women who work sixteen hour days in rice paddies, bending, lifting and carrying heavy loads throughout their entire pregnancies without a higher incidence of miscarriage than the general population.)
Our bodies are made to safely support a fetus, despite all the routine and sometimes extreme activities we put our bodies through during pregnancy. However, back injuries to the mother can occur during pregnancy. This is mostly caused from improper lifting or carrying.
Our backs are more susceptible to injury because of the lumbar lordosis that occurs during pregnancy. That is the forward pushing of lower spine, caused by growing weight of the baby. Backaches are common during some pregnancies -- most are short-lived and relieved by a change in the baby's position. Rest and changing sleep positions (by lying on your left side with a pillow under your head and one between your knees) will ease your discomfort as well. It is important to learn the proper way to lift heavy items (groceries, children, work-related tasks, etc.). Try to avoid sudden moves or turns. Before lifting your children, prepare your body for the lift. Assume a wide-spread stance (shoulder-width apart) and tighten and tuck your buttocks under you. Always bend at your knees to lower your center of gravity to lift your children and use your quadriceps (thighs) -- not your back muscles -- to get your power.
Toddlers and preschoolers will love "helping" mom by wrapping their arms and legs around you to help ease your work load and more evenly distribute their weight.
As both a physician and a mother of two toddlers, I prepared myself for each pregnancy with back-strengthening exercises. This includes dreaded abdominal-strengthening drills as well, but it certainly served me well during and after my pregnancies (including deliveries)! Consult with your physician who can evaluate your back strength and tailor a strengthening program specific to your needs. Good luck with number three!