MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information
PREGNANCY & WORKING
What You Need To Think About
By Allison Hutton
We all know pregnancy is a time of great confusion. What will the baby's name be? Will it be a boy or girl? Will I breastfeed or bottle-feed? The questions are endless, and so are the possible answers. However, when you are working and find out you are pregnant, that may bring on a whole new set of issues. You may have just started a new job, received a promotion, or recently been put in charge of a big project. Maybe you are concerned with how your boss will take the news. Whatever your concerns are, it would be in your best interest to get a "plan" together.
You may want to think about whether or not you will be returning to work, once the baby is born. I can almost guarantee that this will be one of the first questions your boss will ask, once you share the news. For me, there was no question that I was going to be a stay-at-home-mom. My husband and I discussed this before we were married, and we planned ahead, so that my staying home was financially possible. However, many people do not have that option.
Here are a few things for you to think about:
Would it be possible for you to work from home, after the baby is born? Your boss may be surprised at how cost-effective telecommuting really is. If you are interested in something along these lines, do your research ahead of time, and present the facts.
Does your company offer flextime? If not, maybe you could pioneer a new company policy. These days, companies are much more willing to become "family-friendly." It may just take some instruction and motivation to get the ball rolling.
Find out what your company's policy is on maternity leave. Usually, you get so many weeks paid, and have an option for additional time off with no pay. However, there are many different plans out there. Be sure to get all of the facts as to what your company offers.
Is your boss willing to let you leave when necessary, for doctor's appointments, pre-natal testing, etc.? It may be best to talk with a trusted co-worker, who has recently been through this, and see what hurdles she had to overcome.
If you are returning to work after the baby is born, is there a private area available where you can pump, if you are breastfeeding? Again, this may present the opportunity for pioneering the way your company looks at working mothers. Don't be afraid to share your ideas!
As surprising as it may be, sharing the news that you are pregnant isn't always met with enthusiasm. You would be shocked at the number of women who find their jobs are in jeopardy, once they announce their pregnancy. Rest assured that an employer cannot fire you, because you are pregnant. It is against the law, and there are laws that protect you from this type of discrimination. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, or losing you job because you are pregnant, immediately contact the Department of Labor in your state.
Do not feel obligated to work extra hours, weekends, or take work home with you. You will need your rest much more that you anticipate. Make it clear that when you are on maternity leave, you are NOT working. Often times, bosses and/or co-workers can't resist the urge to call you at home, for favors, help, or ideas on getting things done in your absence. Don't let anyone give you the feeling that your pregnancy is an "inconvenience" at the workplace. Do your best to enjoy this time, and those around you will enjoy it, too. You may find that co-workers are eager to throw you a baby shower. They may stop by, after the baby is born, to deliver some food or other treats. Enjoy the precious time you have with your little one, because it will go by very quickly!
Doing research on "family-friendly" companies can bring rewards in the long run. Working Mother magazine recently ran an article entitled "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers." In this article, detailed information regarding company policy towards working mothers is available. If you would like to see this article in its' entirety, please visit Working Mother online at http://www.workingmother.com
WORKING DURING PREGNANCY - DO & DON'T HELPFUL TIPS
Most women can continue working during pregnancy. If you are a healthy woman having a normal pregnancy and you work in a safe environment, you may be able to continue working until the day you deliver, or close to it. Being pregnant, however, might present challenges at the workplace. To stay healthy and productive on the job, understand how to alleviate common pregnancy discomforts - and know when work tasks might jeopardize your pregnancy. Toward the end of your pregnancy, though you may find you tire more easily, so you need to try to take it easy if possible.
MORNING SICKNESS - NAUSEA & VOMITING
It might be called "morning" sickness, but pregnancy queasiness can hit at any time. If you are having trouble keeping food down, keep plastic bags, towels, and mouthwash in your desk or your car, and figure out the quickest way to the bathroom. Talk to your health care provider about medications or other alternative suggestions to relieve morning sickeness and for other strategies to help keep nausea at bay. To help ease nausea at work, try these suggestions:
- Avoid nausea triggers. That double latte you craved every morning before pregnancy or the smell of foods reheated in the break room microwave might now make your stomach flip-flop. Steer clear of anything that triggers nausea.
- Snack often. Crackers and other bland foods can be lifesavers when you feel nauseated. Keep a stash at work for easy snacking. Ginger-ale, ginger or peppermint herbal tea might help, too.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you do not drink enough fluids, your nausea might get worse. Keep a water bottle at your desk or in your work area and sip throughout the day.
If you have not told your boss or co-workers your news yet, try to be ready with a convincing explanation in case someone comes in while you are indisposed. If your morning sickness is particularly severe and prolonged - constant nausea or frequent vomiting - you may have to tell your supervisor about your pregnancy earlier than you planned. This can be tricky because you do not want to be perceived as a lame duck. Before you tell her, figure out what you want: Compassion? Time off? A flexible schedule until you get through the worst of it? And figure out what she wants - probably a commitment that you will continue to get your work done. Finally, assure your supervisor that morning sickness usually ends around the end of the third month.
HANDLE YOUR FATIGUE
You might feel tired as your body works overtime to support your pregnancy. This can make resting during the workday difficult to achieve. It might help to:
- Eat foods rich in iron and protein. Fatigue can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia, but adjusting your diet can help. Choose foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood, leafy green vegetables, iron-fortified whole-grain cereal and beans.
- Take short, frequent breaks. Getting up and moving around for a few minutes can reinvigorate you. Spending a few minutes with the lights off, your eyes closed and your feet up also can help you recharge.
- Cut back on activities. Scaling back can help you get more rest when your workday ends. Consider doing your shopping online or hiring someone to clean the house or take care of the yard.
- Keep up your fitness routine. Although exercise might be the last thing on your mind at the end of a long day, physical activity can help boost your energy level - especially if you sit at a desk all day. Take a walk after work or join a prenatal fitness class, as long as your health care provider or midwife says it is okay.
- Go to bed early. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Resting on your side will improve blood flow to your baby and help prevent swelling. For added comfort, place pillows between your legs and under your belly.
STAYING COMFORTABLE DURING PREGNANCY
Even if your job requires minimal standing and nothing more strenuous than liftin a telephone, make an effort to take good care or yourself while you are pregnant. As your pregnancy progresses, everyday activities such as sitting and standing can become uncomfortable. Remember to take short, frequent breaks to combat fatigue. Moving around every few hours can also ease muscle tension and help prevent fluid buildup in your legs and feet. It would be best if you could switch to a type of work that is less physically taxing during your pregnancy. For example, you might change tasks with a co-worker so that you do the desk work while she does the work that requires more walking and standing. If this isn't possible in your workplace, try to take an occasional sick day or vacation day to relieve fatigue and reduce the number of hours you work or the time you spend on your feet, especially toward the end of the second trimester and during the third. Try these other strategies, too:
- Sitting. Adjustable armrests, a firm seat and back cushions, and good lower back support can make long hours of sitting much easier - especially as your weight and posture change. If your chair is not adjustable, improvise. Use a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support for your back. If you have been sitting, stand up and walk around every two hours. This will relieve swellilng in your feet and ankles, and it should keep you more comfortable. While you are up, do a few stretching exercises to protect your back.
- Standing. Prolonged standing can cause blood to pool in your legs, which might lead to pain or dizziness. It also puts pressure on your back. If you must stand for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest, low foot stool or small box. Switch feet every so often, alternating your resting foot and take frequent breaks. If you have been standing, put your feet up or walk around - moving the muscles helps push fluid out of the feet and legs and back up to the heart to be recirculated. Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Consider wearing support hose, too.
- Bending and lifting. Proper form can spare your back, even if you are lifting something light. Bend at your knees, not your waist. Keep the load close to your body, lifting with your legs and not your back. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes and loose clothing are important. Avoid tight-fitting, constrictive garments and high-heel shoes. You might try wearing maternity tights or support hose to prevent or ease swelling and varicose veins. Wear supportive, comfortable undergarments as your breasts enlarge and body shape expands.
- Keep hydrated. Drink a lot of water and keep a tall glass or bottle of water at your station and refill it often. This will also give you a chance to take a break. Of course, with increased fluid intake, your bathroom breaks may increase too. Do not hold it in. Go to the bathroom as often as you need to.
- Eat well. Take time to eat regular meals and have nutritious snacks. Regular snacking helps prevent drops in blood sugar and morning sickness. Choose lunches that are balanced and nutritious whenever you can. Be sure to add plenty of fiber to your diet to ease constipation issues.
- Limit repetitive tasks. Pregnant women are at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome because fluid retention can increase pressure inside the carpal tunnel and irritate the median nerve. Try to limit repetitive tasks and make your work station as comfortable as possible. If your workstation is starting to cause you pain, ask for an ergonomic evaluation to determine where the problems lie. Do not hesitate to ask for new equipement, if necessary, such as wrist guards or splints, to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
CONTROL YOUR STRESS
Reduce stress. Stress on the job can sap the energy you need to care for yourself and your baby. To minimize workplace stress:
- Take control. Make daily to-do lists and prioritize your tasks. Consider what you can delegate to someone else or eliminate.
- Talk it out. Share frustrations with a supportive co-worker, friend or loved one.
- Relax. Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing slowly or imagining yourself in a calm place. Or try a prenatal yoga class, as long as your health care provider or midwife says it is okay.
If you cannot eliminate a stress factor in your workplace, try to find ways to manage it, such as stretching, doing deep-breathing execises or simply taking a short walk. Rest when you can. The more strenuous your job is, the more you should reduce physical activity inside and outside of work. If you find yourself feeling fatigued, take an occasional sick day to rest. Or use an hour or two of vacation time here and there to shorten your workdays. If you are so tired that you just cannot focus at work, find a private spot or go out to your car and take 15 minutes out of your lunch break for a quick catnap. Turn down overtime, especially in jobs requiring physical activity. Accept help. If your co-workers want to baby you a little - and you do not mind - let them. Consider yourself lucky to be in a supportive workplace. This is a rare and special time in your life, and it would be a shame to have to pretend that nothing has changed every day when you are at work.
TAKE PROPER PRECAUTIONS ON THE JOB
In certain occupations, you might need to make some modifications during your pregnancy. Some studies have shown that women who work physically strenuous jobs during pregnancy - including heavy lifting, standing for long periods, irregular or excessive hours, and other variables - are more likely to deliver prematurely, have low-birth weight babies, and develop high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Certain working conditions might increase your risk of complications during pregnancy, especially if you are at high risk of preterm labor. These conditions include:
- Exposure to harmful substances.
- Excessive working hours.
- Prolonged standing.
- Heavy lifting.
- Excessive noise.
- Heavy vibrations, such as from large machines.
- High stress.
- Cold or hot work environment.
In addition, activities that require agility and good balance might become more difficult later in pregnancy. If you are concerned about any of these issues, consult with your health care provider or midwife. Be straightforward with your care provider about what your job entails so she can help you and work together with you so you can decide if you need to take special precautions or modify your work duties during your pregnancy.
WORK INVOLVING TOXIC SUBSTANCES
You will definitely need a job reassignment, preferably even before you conceive, if you work in a field where you come into contact with known reproductive hazards such as heavy metals like lead and mercury, chemicals such as organic solvents, certain biologic agents, and radiation. These are teratogens - agents that can cause problems like miscarriage, preterm delivery, structural birth defects, and abnormal fetal and infant development when a woman is exposed to them during or even prior to pregnancy. You are likely to come into contact with these hazards while working in places such as computer chip factories, dry-cleaning plants, rubber factories, operating rooms, darkrooms, tollbooths, pottery studios, ship-building plants, and printing presses, to name a few.
Ask your employer to provide you with information about any harmful substances you may be exposed to at work. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires that chemical manufacturers and importers thoroughly evaluate the chemicals they produce and create a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to communicate any potential hazard to users. Your employer should be able to provide you with an MSDS for any chemical you may come in contact with.
If you have any concerns about health hazards at your workplace, be sure to discuss them with your health care provider or midwife, and bring the MSDS with you. Also, let your caregiver know if your partner is routinely exposed to hazardous substances.
For more information, contact these organizations:
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) at www.osha.gov
- NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) at www.cdc.gov/niosh
- OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Services) at www.otispregnancy.org
PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS & STOP WORKING
The most common conditions or risk factors that may cause you to stop working or to reduce your hours during your pregnancy includes:
- If you are at risk for preterm labor. This includes women who are expecting twins or more multiples.
- If you have high blood pressure or at risk for preeclampsia
- If you have a cervical insufficiency or a history of late miscarriage.
- If your baby is not growing properly.
MAINTAINING JOB PROFESSIONALISM DURING PREGNANCY
It helps to know how your pregnancy may affect you at work. During the first and third trimesters, expect fatigue, discomfort, and absentmindedness. During the second trimester, you may feel more energetic and focused. Even though the fatigue and forgetfulness are normal, it might help to talk about your pregnancy with a trusted friend at work.
Your pregnancy, though visible, can still be private. Since you want to continue to be perceived as a serious worker, try not to complain or talk about your pregnancy too much. That can backfire, especially if your supervisor or co-workers are already less than supportive of your pregnancy.
If you can grab a few moments of privacy during the day, you can do whatever you want - daydream, worry, wonder, even take a ten-minute catnap - but be prudent when you are around your co-workers.
TRAVELING FOR WORK
Most women can travel safely during pregnancy, but talk to your health care provider or midwife first, especially if you are going far from home. It is a good idea to carry a copy of your medical records with you in case of an emergency, and check ahead to see what kind of medical care is available at your destination. At the same time, you can find out what your health insurance will cover when you are away from home.
If you have a choice, the best time to travel is during your second trimester. This is when it is likely that you will be past the morning sickness of the first trimester and not yet feeling the fatigue of the final trimester. Airlines usually restrict travel for women at the end of pregnancy. If you have to fly past your second trimester, talk to the airline about their pregnancy regulations.
TALKING WITH CO-WORKERS
If you are fortunate enough to be in a workplace where there are other mothers of young children or other pregnant women, seek out their support and advice when appropriate (like when other co-workers are not around). Questions you might want to ask your more experienced colleagues include:
- What was your maternity leave proposal like?
- What kind of response did you get from your boss and colleagues when you announced your pregnancy?
- How did you keep up appearances and productivity during the fatigue of the last trimester?
- How did you handle absentmindedness?
- Are there any on-site support groups (casual or organized) for parents?
- What is your approach to balancing work and family?
- Have you been able to work out a flexible schedule?
If you return to work, the relationships you forge now will probably only grow stronger as you move from being pregnant to becoming a parent.
THE UNSUPPORTIVE BOSS
Some employers are very understanding when it comes to their employees' pregnancies, and they go out of their way to make jobs easier. Others are far less compassionate. Some even make rude comments or complain openly about how your pregnancy is making things difficult for them.
But no one can discriminate against you because you are pregnant - employers have to comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
If you cannot do the things you used to do - for example, standing for long periods of time or doing heavy lifting - your employer has to treat you just as he would any other employee with a temporary disability. In other words, if you ask for a less strenuous assignment, you cannot be refused.
Still, your boss is not required to make it easier for you to do the work you can still do. She does not have to give you extra breaks or change your work schedule, for example. So if you find that your boss is being especially hard on you, it is up to you to make the decision whether to continue working at the job, based on what is best for your family and your growing baby.
For more information on pregnancy discrimination, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information Index
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information & Survival Tips
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