Working during pregnancy can be difficult; some health tips to handle the challenges and to look after your health and nutrition.
By Melanie Lobo
The pink strips glow brightly on the home pregnancy test. Congratulations on your pregnancy! With the rush of emotions also comes the question – will I be able to continue working for the next nine months? How will I manage the demands at work along with the changes that are happening inside of me? How do I look after the health and nutrition needs of myself and my growing baby?
The good news for women working during pregnancy
The good news is that most women, if they don’t have any existing health problems (like heart disease, diabetes, kidney trouble, high blood pressure or back problems) and enjoy a low risk pregnancy can work right up to their due date. It is essential, however, that you discuss health issues with your doctor. She is the best person to advise you on the course you should follow. Women who are carrying twins or multiple foetuses may need to stop working earlier than anticipated. Working during pregnancy has its benefits too. Pregnancy can be an anxious time and work can keep your mind off insignificant issues.
The person you should talk to next is your boss. The right time to do this depends solely on you and also on how your pregnancy is progressing, although, telling your boss early on could get you a better support system. As your pregnancy advances, fatigue will set in more easily and taking your boss and colleagues into confidence will help you deal with your workload as this happens. Keep in mind that you will need to schedule in prenatal visits and scans/tests into your work calendar. Find out more about your company’s policies regarding maternity leave and the benefits applicable to you. Most companies have a specific maternity benefits policy though flexi time or working from home maybe at the manager’s discretion.
Take the case of Shilpa Joshi, a Team Leader with a leading IT company. She is 8 months pregnant and says that her company has been very supportive and helpful. This is in the form of letting her take leave if the need arises or even giving her a less demanding project to work on. She has enjoyed working and finds it therapeutic to be doing what she enjoys while expecting.
The length of time you can continue working while pregnant depends on your health and to a large extent on the type of work that you do.
The length of time you can continue working while pregnant depends on your health and to a large extent on the type of work that you do. Certain kinds of work have been linked to pregnancies with poor outcomes – low birth weight, premature deliveries, high blood pressure or even, sadly, miscarriages. You should be very careful if you have a job that is hazardous or physically demanding or one that exposes you to toxic substances, chemical gases, fumes, radiation etc. Doctors, nurses, dentists or lab technicians are more prone to infections and need to take precautions against possible harm to themselves and the foetus. Once again, be sure to speak to your doctor about risks at work. If necessary, she may advise to go on leave earlier.
If you have a job that requires standing for long hours, you may need to ask to change to a desk job or stop working by the 24th week. If you have a job that requires you to lift or move materials or is physically strenuous in anyway, you may need to take a break if possible or ask to be reassigned during your pregnancy. If you are in a highly stressful job, you may need to cut down on the hours of work or even consider going on leave prematurely.
Consult your doctor if your job involves travelling. Most doctors advise travelling between the 4th and 6th month, provided there are no complications.
Health tips to remember when working during pregnancy:
- Take frequent breaks to keep your energy levels up. Change your position every two hours. Keep your feet up if you’re sitting. If standing, try to lie down during breaks. Walk around the office now and then. You can also do some simple stretching exercises while at your desk to prevent muscle cramps.
- Eat often – keep nutritious food like cheese, fruit or yogurt handy.
- Drink water – extra fluids are essential so make sure you keep a bottle on you at all times. Avoid tea, coffee and aerated drinks.
- Ask for help – don’t hesitate if you find that the work becomes more than you can handle. Delegate if possible.
A positive attitude, careful planning and anticipating the challenges ahead will ensure that you enjoy your pregnancy to the fullest even while you are hard at work!
For morning sickness
- Suck a lemon or smell a fresh scent
- Keep dry/salty biscuits on hand. Try and figure out what foods/aromas bring on the nausea. Also try and identify what foods help when you do get the feeling.
- Drink lots of fluids
- Eat a little throughout the day. This has been known to help some women.
- Try distracting yourself. Move away from your desk, take a short walk. It helps to take your mind off the morning sickness.
- If you are suffering from severe morning sickness, you may need to take medication for it. Remember to keep your boss informed – if necessary you may need to come in late during these difficult mornings.