Can Hitting Your Pregnant Belly Hurt Your Baby?

How much pressure can a pregnant belly take? Whether it's a little collision or a more serious fall, here's what to know and when to worry if you accidentally hit or bump your pregnant stomach.

A stranger's elbow here, a kitchen counter there—as your pregnancy progresses, you may feel like your abdomen's on a collision course with the world. You might even find yourself wondering, "How much pressure can a pregnant belly take?"

It's not just your imagination: Many factors during pregnancy make your belly bump-prone, such as loose ligaments and joints, a growing girth (you're a larger target and a little off-balance), and possibly, being somewhat distracted.

Doctor Touching Pregnant Belly Woman Sitting
Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

Thankfully, there's no need to worry every time you bump your tummy; even a front-forward fall or a kick from your toddler is unlikely to hurt your baby-to-be.

"Mother Nature provides a safe and protected environment for a fetus, which floats in amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac, which in turn is protected by the muscles of both the uterus and the abdomen," says Owen Montgomery, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences. The spine behind the uterus and the pelvis and rib cage in front also form bony barriers to further protect the fetus.

When to Call the Doctor

Even with your baby's built-in protection, let your obstetrician know if you've taken a spill directly onto your belly, if you've been in a minor fender bender, or if you've suffered a blow to your stomach from another adult. They may have you come in to monitor the fetal heart rate.

Seek immediate medical attention if your baby isn't as active as before (fetal kicks or movement about five times in a two-hour period when you're lying down is normal if you're in your second or third trimester), or if you have bleeding, vaginal discharge, contractions, or cramping within 12 hours of an incident.

Trauma to the uterus in any form (a hard punch or kick to the uterus, a fall directly onto your abdomen, or a car accident) can cause something called placental abruption. This is a condition where the placenta pulls away from the wall of the uterus. In a mild case, there may be some vaginal bleeding and/or contractions with no consequence for the baby. But, in a severe case, a large portion of the placenta pulls away and could cause problems for the baby.

According to the March of Dimes, 10% of preterm births are related to placental abruption, which prevents the fetus from getting needed oxygen and nutrients and can cause dangerous bleeding and other complications for the pregnant person. Treatment may include close monitoring, bed rest, or immediate delivery of the baby.

Protecting Your Pregnant Belly

"Gentle pushing on your belly as it gets bigger is fine," says Michele Hakakha, M.D., an OB-GYN in Beverly Hills and co-author of Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy. "Hard jabs, kicks, or punches can be dangerous, particularly as you get farther along in your pregnancy."

Take extra precautions to be safe from slipping. Watch out for ice, snow, wet leaves, slick steps, and newly waxed or mopped floors. Wear sensible shoes—avoid slick soles or high heels—that fit properly. Be careful getting in and out of the tub or shower, and use the handrails on stairs. And always wear a seatbelt with the lap portion under your abdomen and the shoulder strap between your breasts and to the side of your belly.

The Bottom Line

Typically, most mild to moderate hits to your pregnant belly won't endanger your baby as the uterus provides a well-protected space to grow. However, harder hits can cause serious harm. So, take steps to avoid getting hit or falling, and contact your doctor right away if any incidents happen that you are concerned about.

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