Working during pregnancy: staying healthy and managing stress

A newly pregnant woman has many things to look forward to. In the nine months ahead, she will feel her baby growing inside her and prepare for the new addition to 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. 

When you tell your supervisor and 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. With a little planning, you can learn how to navigate the workplace as a healthy mother-to-be. 

Toxic substances

It is important to make sure you are not being exposed to harmful substances while you are pregnant. Continuous exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, including cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, pesticides and paint, can potentially harm your developing baby. 

If you are concerned about a substance you are exposed to at work, talk to your doctor to find out if it could be harming your baby. Your doctor and your supervisor can help determine how to minimize your risks while you are pregnant. 

Physically demanding duties

If your job requires that you be on your feet for long periods, work long hours, lift heavy objects or perform physically challenging tasks, you may need to limit these activities. If you work more than one job, you may need to take time off. 

Stop working right away and call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding or leaking of amniotic fluid
  • Sudden and severe swelling that affects your hands, fingers or face
  • Severe headaches
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Vision problems
  • Lightheadedness or shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Baby has decreased activity 

Overseas traveling

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. Your doctor may advise against travel if you are having problems during your pregnancy. 

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
  • Change positions often, incorporating sitting, walking and standing
  • Keep snacks at your office to help you avoid skipping meals
  • Drink plenty of water each 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. 

If your doctor says it is safe, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise – such as walking, swimming and 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. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are safe and specific exercises to avoid.

Finally, allow others to help you and pay close attention to your body while pregnant; it will tell you when you have reached your limits.