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’ll 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.
It is important to make sure you are not being exposed to harmful substances while you are pregnant. If you are exposed to any of the following at work, talk to your doctor and your supervisor to determine how to minimize your risks while you are pregnant.
Continuous exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, including cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, insecticides, and paint, can potentially harm your developing baby. If you are concerned about a substance you work with, talk to your doctor to find out if it could be harming your baby.
Physically Demanding Duties
If your job requires that you be on your feet for long periods, lift heavy objects, or perform physically challenging tasks, you may need to limit these activities. Stop working immediately and call your physician if you experience pain, strong cramps, uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, leaking of amniotic fluid, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, heartbeat irregularities, nausea and vomiting, trouble walking, swelling, or if your 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.
Communicating With Your Colleagues
When you tell your 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.
You should also talk with your supervisor about medical leave. If possible, try to plan your departure so you are not working up to your due date. Give yourself a chance to relax and unwind before your baby comes.
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.
- Every 20-30 minutes, get up from your desk and walk around.
- Keep snacks at your office to help you avoid skipping meals. Having a stash of bland foods (eg, pretzels, crackers) at your desk may help you curb nausea if you experience morning sickness.
- Drink plenty of fluids; aim for at least 6-8 glasses of water per 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 (eg, walking, swimming, 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.
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’ve reached your limits.
American Pregnancy Association
The National Women’s Health Information Center
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Bale TL. Is mom too sensitive? Impact of maternal stress during gestation. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2005;26:41-49.
Brett KM, Strogatz DS, Savitz DA. Employment, job strain, and preterm delivery among women in North Carolina. Am J Public Health. 1997;87:199-204.
Having a healthy pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/bd/abc.htm . Accessed September 6, 2005.
Marcoux S, Berube S, Brisson C, et al. Job strain and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Epidemiology. 2000;11:95.
Pregnancy and travel. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/travel.html . Accessed September 6, 2005.
Last reviewed May 2009 by ]]>Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE]]>
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.