Manage Issues in the Workplace

Most women with healthy pregnancies are able to keep working until they give birth. 

Talk with your healthcare provider about your responsibilities, health history, and work environment. He or she can help you decide how long you can work. Tell your doctor about what type of work you do and what kinds of hazards are in your workplace. These can include chemicals, noise, and heat. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you work night shifts or lift heavy objects. You should also ask him or her about anything you’re worried about or have questions about.

If you do heavy lifting

If you need to lift heavy objects, stand for a long time, or climb stairs often, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she may suggest talking with your employer about making temporary changes that are better for you and your baby. If you work long hours and have a lot of stress, consider reducing your work hours. Or you may be able to share duties with a coworker.

Having a physically demanding or very stressful job may be a risk factor for preterm birth. However, unless you’re already at risk for preterm labor, work and stress are not likely to be a problem. Be sure to talk your healthcare provider about this.

If you do heavy work, you may be at risk for falling. Later in pregnancy, your balance can be thrown off by the extra weight and your changing body shape. A good rule of thumb is not to lift more than 20-25 pounds starting at 20 weeks into your pregnancy.

If you work with chemicals

Working in an environment where there may be exposure to toxic chemicals or radiation puts you and your baby at risk.  Exposure can happen when you inhale, swallow, or have skin contact with a toxin. Some chemicals can go through your blood and pass into the placenta. If a chemical is in a sealed container, there’s no risk of exposure. However, radiation can pass through your body to your baby.

Your employer should have information on toxic substances. You can also call your local poison control center. Tell them the names of chemicals you work with. Then ask them to check for any risks to pregnant women.

Every risky substance should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This sheet is made by the manufacturer. It should be available at your worksite. An SDS contains information on the possible health effects of exposure. It also explains how to work safely with the chemical.

Know that you have the right to this information. Check with your state public health department for more information. Unions can also help.

Self-care steps for pregnancy and work

Try not to lift heavy objects or stand for a long period of time. If you must stand, ask for a stool to sit on while you work. Remind your employer that your request to sit is temporary. Tell him or her that it’s best for you and your baby.

If you need to wear personal protective equipment, make sure it still fits well as your body changes.

If you have morning sickness, eat throughout the day. This can help keep nausea at bay. Store healthy snacks near your workstation. Drink plenty of water. Keep in mind that if you skip a meal because you’re too busy, your baby skips that meal, too.

Take short breaks during the day if you can. Go for a walk or find a quiet place to sit.

Try to keep stress in check. Research shows that a lot of stress isn’t good during pregnancy. It may even lead to preterm birth.

About the Medical Leave Act

If you have signs of early labor, your healthcare provider may tell you to stop working.  These can include dilating too early. You may also need to stop working if you have a health issue. These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, being pregnant with twins or more, or having a past preterm birth.

If your healthcare provider tells you to stop work during your pregnancy, you may be eligible for time off of work under the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act. This act gives you 12 weeks of unpaid leave with a guarantee that you won’t lose your job. To be eligible, you and your employer must meet requirements. If you ‘re planning a 12-week leave after your baby is born under this act, time off before birth will count as part of your 12 weeks unless your employer offers another leave program.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPHFoley, Maryann, RN, BSNPierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC

Date Last Reviewed: 4/12/2016

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.