Pregnancy is a time of excitement, but it can also be a time of uncertainty or worry.
If you work, you may be stressing about telling your boss you’re expecting. You may even have concerns about certain job duties that may put you or your baby at risk.
Here’s what you need to know about safely working through your pregnancy, your rights, and some tips on when and how to tell your employer you’re pregnant.
Is working while pregnant safe?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, most people are able to continue working while pregnant. That said, the safety of your job depends on factors such as:
- what you do for a living
- your health status
- any complications you may have with your pregnancy
Speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your job or if your employment exposes you to any of the following risks:
- chemicals, radiation, or other dangerous materials
- long periods of standing or climbing
- carrying or lifting heavy loads
- loud noises or vibrations from heavy machinery
- extreme heat or cold
The number of hours and even time of day when you work may also be a factor.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source of Japanese women uncovered that those who worked more than 40 hours each week were at higher risk of miscarriage and preterm labor. And the more hours worked (51–70 hours and 71+ hours), the higher the risk.
This risk was also highest in the first trimester.
A Danish study from 2019 revealed that people who work at least two night shifts per week may be at higher risk of miscarriage (32 percent) than those who work during the day.
Coping with common pregnancy symptoms at work
Safe to work or not, you may be feeling all sorts of ways due to early pregnancy symptoms.
Here’s how you can cope with these on the job. But if you experience pain, cramping, spotting, or any other worrisome symptoms, contact your doctor.
Nausea and vomiting can start early in pregnancy. If you’re feeling ill, try your best to identify your triggers and avoid them.
Eating small meals and snacks made of bland foods (like breads, crackers, applesauce) throughout the day can help. Ginger tea or ginger ale may also bring you some relief.
If you have severe morning sickness, it may be helpful to let your employer know about your pregnancy. Of course, this isn’t required.
But if you’re missing work or ducking out to use the bathroom frequently, they’ll better understand what’s going on and (hopefully) empathize with the situation.
You may be particularly exhausted in the first trimester and again as you near your due date.
Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest during nonwork hours. For example, experts share you need 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night during pregnancy.
And you may want to consider lightening your load after work if you’re tired or sick. Try getting help with responsibilities like grocery shopping, yard work, and house cleaning — or at least don’t expect yourself to do it all when you’re not feeling your best.
Your hydration needs increase when you’re pregnant. Experts recommend getting 8 to 12 cups of fluids each day. Consider keeping a large water bottle at your desk so you have a convenient water source.
Along with more hydration, you may find yourself needing to visit the restroom more than usual. If your supervisor allows, consider taking short and frequent breaks versus longer and less frequent ones.
Holding your urine for too long can weaken your bladder and may even lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) over time.
Back or pelvic pain
You may have more aches and pains throughout your body as hormones loosen your ligaments and joints. In particular, your back or pelvis may hurt as your belly grows.
Tips to ease discomfort include:
- Wear supportive shoes, like sneakers, if your job involves lots of standing or moving around.
- Pay attention to your posture when lifting, and lift with your lower body rather than your back.
- Take breaks as necessary to give your body a rest. If you’re standing for long periods, try propping one of your feet onto a box or stool to lessen back strain. If you’re sitting for long periods, maintain good posture as much as possible and support your lower back with a small pillow.
- Consider wearing a pregnancy support belt to ease the strain of your belly on your back and pelvis.
- Use heating pads or ice packs to ease soreness. (Just don’t place heating pads on your belly.) If pain gets worse, contact your doctor for additional comfort measures.
Your employer may be able to provide you with certain accommodations that make your job safer. And if you’re unable to do your job duties temporarily due to your pregnancy, complications, or birth, your employer may not discriminate against you.
Instead, you’re entitled to be treated as other workers with a temporary disability. This means that you may be given light duty, different assignments, or even disability or unpaid leave — provided these measures are also available to other workers with a temporary disability.
Disability? While pregnancy isn’t traditionally considered a disability, certain pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
More information and details about what conditions apply can be found here.
Keep in mind that different states and different workplaces have varying policies. If you have questions about your rights, contact your job’s human resources (HR) department.
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