Have you heard stories about when teachers used to send their students home with egg “babies” as a lesson in just how hard it is to keep a fragile little thing safe and protected?
You might have laughed and laughed because it was obviously not the same — except now you’re pregnant, and you’re wondering if waddling around with a baby sticking out from your center of gravity isn’t so different from carrying that egg around all day.
There’s a fragile little one that needs protecting from the big bad world out there, and you’re the only thing standing in the way.
Or are you?
There’s actually a lot of padding between the outside of your stomach and the cozy bubble that baby is floating around in. But your abdomen isn’t bulletproof, no matter how badass growing an entire human makes you feel — there’s a limit to how much pressure and impact it can withstand.
So just how safe is your baby when it’s inside you? Here’s what you need to know.
Admit it: You went home with your egg baby, all confident and carefree, and then before the weekend was over you dropped it on the kitchen floor — because taking care of an egg baby is hard, folks.
Thankfully, taking care of your real baby while they’re in your belly is way easier.
People have been growing and carrying babies for… well, all of life on Earth. Traveling long distances on foot, toiling in the fields, taking care of other children, tending to animals — the pregnant body is actually designed to withstand a lot.
There are a few reasons, specifically, why your body can handle some roughing up without injury to your baby:
- your uterus, aka the strong muscular organ housing your wee one
- your amniotic fluid, which absorbs pressure like a waterbed would
- the extra body weight you’re carrying, which acts like a protective fat layer
One thing to note is that contact (like bumping into a wall) is different from trauma (like a car accident).
Your belly can handle day-to-day abdominal contact. Trauma is a different story, but it’s also much less common.
Because baby is so tiny in the first trimester, there’s virtually no risk to them with abdominal contact or trauma. It’s not impossible to have a negative outcome, but it would be rare unless the injury was severe.
The risk increases a bit in the second trimester, as your baby and stomach start growing more. Even still, the chances of harm to the baby are low.
The third trimester, though, is different. At this point, baby is getting pretty big and filling up a lot of the available real estate in your belly.
This means you may have less cushioning from amniotic fluid and body fat.
It also means you’re at a higher risk of placental abruption, which is most common in the third trimester. Placental abruption isn’t always caused by trauma — but trauma can cause it, leading to bleeding, pain, and even premature delivery.
All these factors combined make the third trimester the most dangerous when it comes to abdominal impact.
Kids and pets
Little kids, dogs, and cats either don’t know or couldn’t care less that you’re pregnant, and their exuberance can result in some uncomfortable leaps into your arms or onto your lap.
For the most part, this won’t hurt your baby; after all, expectant moms have been living with older children and pets forever, mostly without incident.
It does make sense to do some training, though (of your pet and your kid, if necessary!) so it’s not a repeated thing. If your child or pet is over 40 pounds, they could — in theory — accidentally hit you hard enough to cause an injury.
Discourage larger dogs from jumping to greet you and teach your toddler to “hug gently” to avoid any issues.
In general, minor car accidents pose more of a risk to you than to baby. This is especially true in the first and second trimesters. Even in the third trimester, the risk to your baby is low as long as the accident is one all parties can walk away from.
But regardless of how far along you are or how serious (or not) the crash is, always get checked by a doctor right away.
While a little fender bender around the corner from your house isn’t likely to cause any problems, any kind of car accident falls into the “needs medical attention” category of pregnancy impacts.
Whether you were a klutz pre-pregnancy or not, you aren’t likely to escape those 9 months without banging your bump into doors, cabinets, drawers, and furniture.
Why? Because your center of gravity is all messed up, and you may be in a constant state of distraction thanks to pregnancy brain.
If you’re constantly bumping your belly while you vacuum, wash dishes, put away laundry, or just generally go about your daily biz around the house, you don’t need to worry — baby is nice and safe in there.
The good news is that you don’t have to change up your intimacy routine with your partner very much during pregnancy. There aren’t any sex positions that are actually unsafe.
Some positions might simply be uncomfortable for you, like ones where you have to lie on your back.
Although it isn’t dangerous to be on the bottom for the length of a normal sexual encounter, you might want to try new sex positions during pregnancy that aren’t only more comfortable but maximize the experience for your changing body.
Trips, slips, and falls
Again, your center of gravity isn’t the same as it used to be, so tripping and slipping isn’t unusual during pregnancy. As far as whether these foibles need to be evaluated by your doctor, that depends on if there was any impact to your back or stomach.
In other words, if you trip on a wayward shoe or slip on a patch of ice but don’t hit the floor or ground, you should be good to go.
If you do fall down, though, and it’s hard enough to hurt or knock the wind out of you for a sec, you should give your doctor a call to see what they say. (They might want to examine you or they might just tell you to monitor yourself for signs of injury.)
Any serious falls — like taking a tumble down a flight of stairs or while getting out of the shower — should receive medical attention right away, either with your doctor or through an emergency or urgent care facility.
But what does “heavy lifting” actually mean? Can you carry that box of new baby items up the stairs? Pick up your 5-year-old? Exercise with hand weights?
Well, it depends.
- how far along you are
- how heavy the item or person you’re lifting is
- how often you need to be doing the lifting
To sum it up: The more often you need to lift things, the lighter in weight they should be. Heavier objects can be lifted as long as it’s done infrequently. (And those numbers vary based on whether you’re fewer than 20 weeks or more than 20 weeks pregnant, FYI.)
Also make sure you’re using safe lifting techniques, like bending from the knees and not raising items over your head.
Getting up using your abdominal muscles
If you’re the type who used to jump out of bed first thing in the morning and hit the ground running, you won’t do any harm to your baby with that habit — but you might want to consider a more moderate approach for your own sake.
Repeated abdominal strain during pregnancy can cause or worsen diastasis recti, a common pregnancy and postpartum condition that can be difficult to fully resolve (even with months and months of specialized exercise).
Instead of using your abs to get into a standing position from a prone or seated one, turn onto your side and push off with your arms and legs, or grab onto something — yes, your partner counts — and gently pull yourself up.
Exercises that use your abdominal muscles
You use your core for the vast majority of exercises, even when they’re focused on your arms, butt, or legs.
But there are definitely some exercises, like crunches, sit-ups, and leg lifts, that work your abs the hardest — and these should generally be avoided after the first trimester.
While there’s no direct harm to your baby with these exercises, there are a few reasons why it’s better to skip them.
Lying flat on your back can interfere with your blood flow, and can also cause you to accidentally strain other muscle groups, like the ones in your back, to overcompensate for the weight in your front.
If you want to keep strengthening your core during pregnancy, you can do planks, standing crunches, and yoga poses that position you on your hands and knees.
There are three scenarios where you should call your doctor ASAP, no matter how small they might seem in the moment:
- You’re in a car accident. It doesn’t matter if it’s a head-on collision or a small tap in a parking lot — contact your doctor if you’re involved in any kind of motor vehicle accident.
- You fall. Flat on your face, hard on your butt, turtle-style onto your backside — it doesn’t matter where you land or what you injure. If there’s impact, you should call your doctor.
- You experience an intentional blow to the stomach. There will always be rogue limbs flying when you have a toddler around, and that’s fine. But if anyone hits or kicks you in the stomach on purpose, you should contact your doctor (and if necessary, the police or a domestic violence hotline, depending on the situation).
If you have a minor abdominal strain or impact like the ones we outlined before (e.g., your dog jumped on you or you lifted something unexpectedly heavy), you most likely won’t need to call or see your doctor.
You still should be on the lookout for any concerning symptoms, such as:
- vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge
- consistent pain or cramping
- frequent contractions that don’t get better when you rest
- a decrease in fetal movement
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor, regardless of how mild you think the impact or strain to your belly might have been.
The vast majority of contact your belly has with the outside world every day won’t hurt your baby — they’re very well protected in there!
The risk increases a little during the third trimester, when baby is bigger and the risk of placental abruption is higher. Even then, it takes a traumatic event (not your 5-year-old climbing into your lap) to be cause for concern.
That said, any traumatic event should prompt a call to your doctor, along with any symptoms of pain, bleeding, contractions, or changes to your baby’s movement.