PREGNANT women are capable of lifting heavy objects and should maintain their normal levels of exercise and activity if possible.
That's the advice from SCU PhD candidate Nellie Buckley who has been looking at pregnancy and activity since 2009 and who recently conducted an experiment with 67 pregnant women to assess their lifting capacity.
"I'm an exercise physiologist and worked at a women-only gym and found I was giving pregnant women the wrong advice (about restricting their activity).
In her experiment to test lifting capacity, the women lifted milk crates with an unknown weight until they reached their maximum capacity.
"What I found was that a woman who worked at a fish and chip shop, who kept doing what she'd been doing (throughout her pregnancy) was lifting 40kg the day she went into labour. For other women, they'd start to feel back pain at 9kg.
"As an allied health provider, what I encourage all health professionals to do is to consider the individual.
"There are considerable health benefits to maintaining physical activity; women get less sore, have less back pain, (and) sleep better, but you have to balance what is achievable activity with those hindrances that can occur as the pregnancy continues."
American weightlifter Lea-Ann Ellison made news last year by powerlifting when she was 33 weeks pregnant.
Ms Buckley said what she was doing was a continuation of her usual lifting regime, so was not straining herself, where as it would not be recommended for someone who wasn't used to it.
"I'm a power athlete, I love to get into the gym and lift heavy weights. It gives me an endorphin lift. If I couldn't do it, it would be depressing and there's no good reason not to."
Ms Buckley will present her research tomorrow as part of the annual Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Western Sydney.
People's research will be presented to "an intelligent, but non-specialised audience in an engaging manner".
This competition was developed in 2008 at the University of Queensland and has become an international competition, across Australia and New Zealand.