Pregnancy can be tiring for moms-to-be, and when they are on bed rest or their doctors recommend reduced activity levels, it can be hard to remain occupied for several months. It is not uncommon for women to turn to television viewing to either use as a way to relax and rest or as a boredom buster for weeks of prescribed rest. Pregnant moms often have two concerns about television viewing: Is it safe to be close to a television or computer screen while pregnant? and, How much television viewing is too much while pregnant?
Safety Issues for Television Watching During Pregnancy
Several agencies and studies have all reached the same conclusion: There is no radiation risk associated with watching television or using a computer monitor to watch programming while pregnant. Laptops, however, do tend to emit heat, and it is important to not place the computer on the abdomen (such as when a mother-to-be might lie down and rest). When measured from a distance of a few feet away, there is no radiation level detected from television screens (up close it is at minimum levels that are considered safe).
Watching Television While Pregnant
While watching television during pregnancy does not pose any type of radiation risk, there are other health concerns that might arise from frequent or excessive television viewing. These include inactivity levels that lead to weight issues, inactivity that leads to muscle and posture problems, and risks for depression. There are also, however, some benefits from watching television during pregnancy, especially for those moms who are on prescribed bed rest.
Inactivity and Weight Gain
If a pregnant woman is struggling to maintain a healthy weight, at risk or suffering from diabetes or gestational diabetes, or is obese and at risk for giving birth to a baby that is too large for delivery, television viewing should be kept to a minimum. Each 15 minute segment spent watching television is a 15 minute segment of time that could be devoted to even light physical activity, such as walking the dog or gardening. For pregnant women who are overweight or obese, it can work well to make sure that each 15 minute segment spent watching television is matched with a 30 minute segment of physical activity (as long as approved by a physician). The following are some light activity options for women struggling with weight and inactivity that can be done in 30 minute time intervals.
- Gentle swimming – the use of water in exercise reduces the stress on the body and makes exercise easier.
- Fitness class designed specifically for pregnant women – these classes are often more appealing and more flexible in expectations than typical exercise classes for the general population.
- Community education programs – opportunities such as gardening clubs can help encourage light activity and introduce women to new hobbies.
- Outings – sometimes television is used to cure boredom, so looking for opportunities to get exercise while being entertained can help both alleviate weight concerns and act as boredom busters. Walking tours of historical landmarks and museum events or visits to zoos are great ways to incorporate light physical activity during pregnancy.
Inactivity and Muscle Problems
If television is used as a way to relax or fight boredom, it can lead to problems with aches and pains. Remaining in one or two immobile positions for too long can cause muscle cramps, problems with posture, and swollen and sore joints. Pregnant women can combat these issues by trying the following:
- Using a treadmill or exercise bike while watching television
- Doing a household chore such as ironing while watching television
- Getting up during every commercial break to do a simple series of stretches and change of position
Risks for Depression
Pregnant women have hormonal surges, extreme emotional changes, and worries and concerns that all contribute to issues like depression. Remaining sedate for too much time, such as spending too much time watching television, can contribute to these issues. Extra and unintended weight gain can cause self-esteem issues, and inactivity can lead to feelings of isolation, especially during difficult pregnancies. Limiting television viewing can encourage other outlets that offer healthier alternatives for relaxation, such as gathering with friends and preparing for the birth of the new family member.
Benefits of Watching Television While Pregnant
Any mother who has been on bed rest can attest to the boredom and frustration that can be felt. Television is just one of the ways that moms-to-be who have to keep their feet up can pass the time. When incorporated with things like programs that teach hobbies (cooking, sewing, building), and programming designed for expectant mothers (health and nutrition, etc.), television shows can actually benefit these expectant mothers.