Pregnancy and Work

Pregnancy and Work

Many women work during pregnancy without any complications. Being able to work safely while pregnant depends on the type of job you have and your medical condition.

Pregnancy and Work

Pregnancy and Work

In general, working full-time during pregnancy is not a problem.  Some women however, may find they prefer not to work during pregnancy while others may find they need to adjust their work schedule, especially if their job calls for strenuous activity or working with dangerous substances.

Being able to work safely, in some cases until the day of delivery, depends on the type of work you do and on the medical condition of you and your baby. If, like most women, you continue to work through your pregnancy, it is important to be aware that your specific job and work site may present risks. Knowing what these risks are and minimizing them will help increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy.

Many women find that working during pregnancy is a challenge often related to increased fatigue, to morning sickness, back pain and swelling.  The American Medical Association recommends the following for working pregnant women:

  • wear comfortable clothing including comfortable shoes

  • take a break every few hours and stretch your legs

  • take a longer meal break every four hours

  • drink plenty of fluids (water) while on the job

  • vary work positions continuously, from sitting to standing and walking

  • minimize heavy lifting and bending

Be sure to discuss the following possible job risks with your health care provider.  Exposure to the following can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, and other problems:

  • metals such as mercury and lead

  • some household cleaning agents and pesticides

  • some pharmaceutical agents such as chemotherapy

  • infections on the job, such as hepatitis and rubella

  • radiation, radioactive waste, or other substances

  • extreme heat

  • prolonged standing or walking, heavy lifting, working varying shifts, and job stress.

Special note regarding video display terminals:

It is estimated that approximately 50 million workers in the U.S. use a computer on their job and this number is growing all the time. Studies have found no link between exposure to video display terminals and risk to pregnant women. Based on what is known at this time, you do not have to be concerned about working with video display terminals.

If your job has some unusual elements or any things you are concerned about, make sure to discuss these issues with your employer and with your health care provider.

Tips About Work and Pregnancy

If you work outside the home, the following suggestions, adapted from the March of Dimes: work and pregnancy website, may be helpful:

  1. Reduce the symptoms of morning sickness by keep carbohydrate-rich snacks such as crackers, popcorn and pretzels nearby.

  2. Eat at least three healthy meals a day.  Many smaller meals per day are better than a few large meals. Eat nutritious snacks, such as carrot sticks or bananas, throughout the day. 

  3. Drink lots of plain water, not sweetened juices, soda, coffee, or tea.

  4. Get some regular exercise, even moderate exercise such as walking around once an hour.

  5. Fight fatigue by getting plenty of sleep. Ten or 11 hours a night is not unusual for a pregnant woman. If possible, try to catnap or rest at work, either on a sofa or with your feet up on your desk.

  6. Plan a timely departure. Try not to work right up until your due date.

  7. Know the law regarding maternity leave issues.  In the U.S. the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires large companies to allow parents (mothers and fathers) 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  Some states have laws that extend FMLA coverage, so check out the employment laws of the state in which you work.  Make sure to also research your company’s maternity leave policy.

  8. Consider your timing. In general, it’s best to wait until the end of your first trimester to let your employer know that you are pregnant. But, if you are suffering through morning sickness or having a difficult pregnancy, you may need to discuss your pregnancy earlier. If your employer initiates a discussion about your leave before you are prepared, tell the employer you will be working on the details of your request and identify a date by which you will communicate your needs to your employer.

  9. Regarding maternity or paternity leave, decide how much time you would like to take or will need to take. Think about taking time off before the baby is born and phasing back into your job by working part time. If you have problems or questions about negotiating your leave, call the National Job Survival Hotline at (800) 522-0925, sponsored by the National Association of Working Women.

  10. Remember to help the person(s) who will be covering for your job duties.  Get your records, assignment or tasks as up to date and organized as you can.  Secure your personal items including your personal or confidential computer files.  Reroute or change your mail, email, and your voicemail messages.

For additional information, please visit the link Common Concerns of Pregnancy.

Additional Information

March of Dimes: Work and pregnancy

Berkeley Parents Network: working and pregnancy

Guidelines for working during pregnancy

Finding a job while pregnant


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