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Working During Pregnancy: Staying Healthy and Managing Stress
Is Your Work Environment Safe?
A newly pregnant woman has many things to look forward to. In the nine months ahead, she will feel her baby growing inside her and prepare for the new addition for her family. But for the many women who continue to work during their pregnancy, the ongoing demands of work and home life can be daunting.
When you tell your supervisor and colleagues about your pregnancy, express any concerns you are having about the ability to work while you are pregnant. If your company allows flexible work hours, consider adjusting your hours around the times you feel most alert and energetic. With a little planning, you can learn how to navigate the workplace as a healthy mother-to-be.
It is important to make sure you are not being exposed to harmful substances while you are pregnant. Continuous exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, including cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, pesticides, and paint, can potentially harm your developing baby. If you are concerned about a substance you are exposed to at work, talk to your doctor to find out if it could be harming your baby. Your doctor and your supervisor can help determine how to minimize your risks while you are pregnant.
Physically Demanding Duties
If your job requires that you be on your feet for long periods, work long hours or usual shifts, lift heavy objects, or perform physically challenging tasks, you may need to limit these activities. If you work more than one job, you may need to take time off. Stop working right away and call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Leaking of amniotic fluid
- Sudden and severe swelling that affects your hands, fingers, or face
- Severe headaches
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Difficulty urinating
- Vision problems
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting—Morning sickness early in pregnancy is common. But, if you have severe nausea or vomitting, talk to your doctor.
- Baby has decreased activity
If you are required to travel overseas while you are pregnant, make sure you have proper immunizations. Also, talk with your doctor to find out how you can prevent becoming ill from the organisms found in food and water of foreign countries.
Designing a Pregnancy-Friendly Workplace
To optimize your work environment during your pregnancy, consider the following strategies:
- If you work at a desk, arrange your computer monitor, keyboard, and chair so that you are sitting more comfortably.
- Change positions often, incorporating sitting, walking, and standing .
- Keep snacks at your office to help you avoid skipping meals. Having a stash of bland foods like pretzels and crackers at your desk may help you curb nausea if you experience morning sickness.
- Drink plenty of water each day.
Unwinding Outside of Work
When you are not working, be sure to unwind and de-stress so you are efficient and well-rested in the workplace. Allow yourself some time to relax each day. And get plenty of sleep. It is not unusual for pregnant women to need a few extra hours of sleep a night. So when you feel tired, go to bed.
If your doctor says it is safe, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, and stationary cycling, on most days of the week. This will help you feel healthy and energetic. Prenatal yoga can also help keep you fit and relaxed during your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about specific exercises to avoid.
Most importantly, pamper yourself while you are pregnant. Allow others to help you and pay close attention to your body; it will tell you when you have reached your limits.
American Pregnancy Association
Office on Women's Heatlh
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
ACOG Committee on Obstetric Practice. Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol. 2002;99(1):171-173. Reaffirmed 2009.
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Morning sickness. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/morning-sickness-during-pregnancy. Updated July 2011. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Pregnancy and travel. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/traveling-during-pregnancy. Updated January 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Pregnancy complications. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/pregnancy-complications.html. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Pregnancy exercise guidelines. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/exercise-guidelines. Updated January 2013. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Staying safe. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/staying-safe.aspx. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Work and pregnancy. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=work-and-pregnancy-85-P01244. Accessed February 17, 2015..
9/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner Program. Occupational guidance for physical and shift work of pregnant women in the United States. Austin (TX): University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing; 2014. 13 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48219. Updated 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015
- Update Date: 02/17/2015