Manage Issues in the Workplace
The decision to work outside the home during pregnancy is best made with advice from your doctor. Most women with healthy pregnancies are able to continue to work until delivery.
When discussing your options, your doctor will talk with you about:
- your responsibilities at work
- your health history
- your workplace environment
If You Do Heavy Lifting
Your doctor may suggest talking with your employer about temporary changes that are better for you and your baby if your work requires:
- heavy lifting
- prolonged periods of standing
- frequent stair climbing
If you work long hours and experience excessive stress, you may consider reducing your work schedule or sharing work duties with another employee.
Risks to you and the baby
The biggest concern of heavy physical demands or undue stress is the risk of premature birth.
Unless you are already at risk for premature labor, work and stress are not likely to be a problem. There is still medical uncertainty about this, however, so discuss the issue with your doctor.
Falls can be a problem for some pregnant women who do heavy work.
Dizziness, fatigue, and nausea in the first trimester can increase your risk of falling. Later in pregnancy, your balance can be thrown off by the extra weight of pregnancy as well as by your changing body shape.
A good rule of thumb is not to lift more than 20-25 pounds beginning about 20 weeks into your pregnancy.
If You Work with Chemicals
You can harm your baby if, while pregnant, you work in an environment where you are exposed to:
- toxic chemicals
Exposure with a toxic substance can happen when you:
- or have skin contact
Some chemicals can circulate through your blood and pass into the placenta. If a chemical is in a sealed container, there is no exposure. Radiation can pass directly through your body to your baby.
Learning about toxicity
Your employer should have information on the toxicity of these substances. You can also call your local poison control center with the names of the chemicals to check for any risks to pregnant women.
Every hazardous substance should have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the manufacturer available at the worksite. An MSDS is a document that contains information on the potential health effects of exposure and how to work safely with the chemical product.
Users should know they have the right to get this information in order to learn if they are working with hazardous substances. State public health departments have environmental health personnel who can also advise users; unions also should have this information.
Birth defects from harmful solvents can occur early in pregnancy—sometimes as little as two weeks after your missed period.
Self-Care Steps for Pregnancy and Work
Avoid heavy lifting and prolonged standing.
If you must stand, ask for a stool to sit on while you work. Remind your employer that your request to sit is temporary and a healthy alternative for you and your baby.
Eat throughout the day, if you are nauseated.
Keep healthy snacks near your workstation and don’t forget to drink water. If you skip a meal because you are too busy, your baby skips that meal, too.
Rest, if possible.
Take short breaks during the day. Go for a walk, or find a quite place to sit.
Reduce stresses if you can.
Research has shown that excessive stress has negative effects on pregnancy, including premature delivery and an increased risk for childhood asthma.
About the Medical Leave Act
If your body is showing signs of early labor, such as early dilating, your doctor may require you to stop work. Other medical reasons for stopping work are:
- high blood pressure
- previous preterm delivery
If your doctor ultimately requires you to stop work during your pregnancy, you may—under the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act—be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave with a guarantee that you will not lose your job.
To be eligible, you and your employer must meet certain requirements. If you are planning a 12-week leave after your baby is born under the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act, time off before delivery will count as part of your 12 weeks unless your employer offers another maternity leave program.
If you continue to work while you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about any difficulties at work that affect your pregnancy.
- Online Source: Galter Health Sciences Library
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