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Can You Shovel Snow While Pregnant?

You might want to take the winter off.

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Being pregnant during the winter has its perks — you won’t sweat nonstop like you would during the summer, and the cold weather is perfect for bundling up on the couch and taking it easy. It also has its downsides, like having to sit out during the ice skating or snow tubing fun. If you live in a snowy area, this kind of begs the question: can you shovel snow while pregnant? There isn’t any research or special guidelines about whether or not shoveling snow is safe for expectant parents, so experts encourage you to err on the side of caution (or rather, asking someone else to clear the driveway for you).

Can you shovel snow while pregnant?

The short answer is, probably not. There are no studies or official guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) about whether or not it’s safe to shovel snow while you’re pregnant. The closest information available is about lifting heavy objects while pregnant.

“Repetitive lifting — which is involved with shoveling snow — has not been looked into. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published clinical guidelines for occupational lifting in uncomplicated pregnancies and recommends weight limits by gestational age,” says Dr. Monique De Four Jones, M.D., MBA, OB-GYN and associate chief of Labor and Delivery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

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Those repetitive lifting guidelines, she says, state that pregnant people should not lift more than 18 pounds repeatedly in the first half of pregnancy, and no more than 13 pounds in the second half. These limits apply to people who would be lifting these amounts repetitively for an hour or more while working their job. For an hour or less of lifting, folks in the first half of pregnancy shouldn’t lift more than 30 pounds, and those in their second half shouldn’t lift more than 22 pounds.

A 2014 study of the NIOSH guidelines found that pregnant women should not lift items from the ground or anywhere “below mid-shin,” which is obviously where snow would be. A 2013 study done in Denmark also showed an elevated risk of miscarriage associated with extensive lifting in the workplace setting, De Four Jones pointed out. ACOG also references the study in their guidelines about work safety during pregnancy.

Ultimately, there’s no solid research about shoveling snow while pregnant, and even the studies available about heavy lifting at work during pregnancy are limited, according to De Four Jones. “The takeaway is, call your provider before attempting to shovel snow,” she says.

On the off chance you just love shoveling snow, this is probably a bit of a bummer. But chances are you’ll be glad to know that you can now hand off this chore to your partner for this winter (or pay a neighbor kid to handle it).

Studies referenced:

Waters, T. R., MacDonald, L. A., Hudock, S. D., & Goddard, D. E. (2013, August 21). Provisional Recommended Weight Limits for Manual Lifting During Pregnancy. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 56(1), 203–214. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018720813502223

Juhl, M., Strandberg-Larsen, K., Larsen, P. S., Andersen, P. K., Svendsen, S. W., Bonde, J. P., & Nybo Andersen, A. M. (2012, December 3). Occupational lifting during pregnancy and risk of fetal death in a large national cohort study. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 39(4), 335–342. https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3335


Dr. Monique De Four Jones, M.D., MBA, OB-GYN and associate chief of Labor and Delivery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Zucker School of Medicine

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