Dealing With Pregnancy at Work
Being pregnant at work can add extra responsibilities and considerations to an already busy day. As the body works overtime to help the baby develop, it is important to take notice of how to stay rested, healthy, comfortable, and safe.
Common pregnancy issues such as fatigue, swelling, and nausea don’t take a break just because you are at work. In order to continue working through a pregnancy, the first step is to speak with a doctor to learn about any specific concerns or issues to be aware of. Every pregnancy is different, but most women can continue working as long as they make some modifications.
- If nausea is a primary concern, have ginger ale, ginger candy, or ginger tea on hand. It can also be wise to avoid staying in the cafeteria or break room for too long, since certain smells can make nausea worse. Many doctors also suggest eating small meals every two hours, to help aid in digestion. Bland snacks are best, such as crackers, pretzels, or cereal, but listen to your body and what it can tolerate; it is likely that your comfort foods may change periodically.
- If you feel fatigued, you can consider prioritizing and cutting down on the activities that are not high on your list. It is important to get adequate rest, so going to bed early, as well as resting while you are awake, will help you get through the workday. Eating foods high in iron and protein can also help. While at work, drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks.
- To prevent swelling, practice sitting with good posture, in a chair with lower back support. If you sit for most of the day, get up frequently to walk around, even if it is just to the water fountain and back. Some jobs require standing for long periods of time; if this is the case, make sure to have comfortable shoes with good support, and try propping one foot up at a time, and alternating feet.
When pregnant, your body can be more susceptible to certain hazards. It is smart to speak with your doctor as well as whoever directs health and safety at your workplace, to learn about what changes you should take to keep you and your baby safe. For a more complete list of hazards, check out www.cdc.gov and search for The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and pregnancy in the workplace.
- Proper PPE at Work – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of the most important safety precautions while on the job. Examples include gloves, goggles, ear protection, and protective clothing. As your metabolism and body changes, it may be necessary to upgrade or change out what types of PPE you are utilizing. Some gloves only provide minimal protection from chemicals and some respirators may make it too hard to breathe while pregnant. If you have questions, make sure to ask.
- Preventing Take Home Exposure – Some chemicals or other substances may travel home with you or a loved one and can still be dangerous. To prevent contaminating your home with substances such as pesticides, lead, or anything else brought home from the job, practice these habits:
- Keep soiled clothes at work, separate from clean clothes that get worn home, or have a spot at home that is reserved for dirty work clothes.
- Take shoes off outside house.
- Wash hands and/or shower before leaving work, or do so immediately when you get home.
- Decrease Chance of Injury – Pregnancy causes changes in balance and flexibility, increasing chances for falls and sprains. Utilize proper lifting form every time you have to lift something by bending your legs, keeping the load close to your body, and avoiding twisting. Get up slowly and pay attention to how steady you feel.
- Decrease Chance of Illness – Immune systems also change during pregnancy, making you more susceptible to getting sick. Wash hands often, stay hydrated, keep a healthy diet, and avoid people and places where illness is present, as much as possible.
Workplace discrimination and harassment does happen to women who are pregnant, but is illegal thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act helps to make sure that pregnant women are guaranteed equal treatment and a woman’s pregnancy cannot legally influence factors such as hiring, firing, pay, and benefits. Women who are pregnant and unable to work can, in some cases, be treated the same as any other employee with a disability. This might include work assigning less demanding tasks, or giving short-term leave. In some cases (depending on the size of the employer and how long the employee has been with the employer) a woman might qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which would allow for 12 weeks of leave (paid or unpaid, based on what employee has earned). To learn more about pregnancy rights, search for “pregnancy rights” on the websites for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission www.eeoc.gov or the U.S. Department of Labor. www.dol.gov.
Remember you can always find help dealing with pregnancy at work by talking to a counselor.