Work and Pregnancy
Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you work, you might be wondering if you can continue working throughout your pregnancy. Many women do so without any problems. Pregnancy causes many changes in your body and your ability to continue working depends on your overall health, the health of the fetus, and what sort of work you do. Many jobs are safe to continue through pregnancy. Other jobs may be OK at the beginning of pregnancy. But later in pregnancy, some duties may need to be changed or stopped. Sometimes your schedule or hours may need to be changed. If you continue working, the goal is to stay safe and comfortable.
Most desk and computer jobs are safe during pregnancy. But because of fluid buildup during pregnancy, some women develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This can make keyboard work difficult. As your body and posture change, back, neck, and shoulder strain may also become an issue if you sit all day. If you are pregnant and work at a desk or on a computer, these tips may help:
Take frequent breaks. Get up and walk around to improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
Use a pillow or cushion for lower back support.
Use correct hand and arm positions when using a computer. Use a wrist wrest if you use a keyboard and mouse.
Use a phone headset to relieve neck and shoulder strain.
Don’t cross your legs or feet.
Jobs that require standing for long periods can be hard on the pregnant body causing back and leg pain. This is especially true late in pregnancy. Standing for long periods can also reduce blood flow to the fetus and may slow baby’s growth. If you have to stand, try these tips:
Prop 1 foot on a short stool or box to help relieve back pain.
Ask if you can sit on a tall stool rather than stand.
Take breaks often. Sit down with your feet up if possible.
Wear good, comfortable, well-fitted and low-heeled shoes.
Heavy labor jobs
If you have a job that often requires heavy lifting, pulling, pushing, or other physical labor, talk with your healthcare provider about whether it is safe to continue. Pregnancy symptoms, like dizziness and extreme tiredness,can make some physical jobs dangerous. As your center of gravity changes, your sense of balance may suffer, making you more likely to fall.
If you work with chemicals, radiation, heavy metals, gases, or biological agents (virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasites) you may need to take extra precautions during pregnancy. Some hazardous agents get into the mother’s blood and can pass to the fetus. Others can affect the mother’s health or harm the fetus directly. Talk with your healthcare provider about any specific concerns you may have. Ask whether you should wear protective clothing. Always follow all safety procedures.
If you work in a very hot or cold environment, or are exposed to loud noise, you may need to adjust your work tasks to avoid these extremes.
If your job requires travel, try to schedule it during the middle of your pregnancy (between weeks 14 and 28). This is the safest time for travel and a time when early pregnancy symptoms have hopefully faded, but you are not yet too big and uncomfortable. Air travel is not recommended after 36 weeks of pregnancy. When traveling by air, consider these tips:
Try to book an aisle seat so you can get up and walk around and have easier access the bathroom.
Wear your seatbelt below your belly, across the hipbones.
Eat smaller meals.
If you are traveling out of the country, make sure you are up to date on the necessary vaccinations. Avoid traveling to areas where there is a risk for malaria.
When traveling by car, limit driving time to no more than 5 or 6 hours. Stop often to stretch your legs. Always wear your seat belt.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about working while you are pregnant.
- Burd, Irina, MD, PhD
- Kanipe, Jennifer, RN, BSN