Pregnancy can be a thrilling time, but also a time when you are anxious or unsure.
You might stress about telling your boss that you are pregnant if you work. You might be concerned about job duties that could put your baby or yourself at risk.
What you need to know to safely work through your pregnancy. Your rights. Some tips for when and how you should tell your employer that you are pregnant.
Is it safe to work while pregnant?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Trusted Source says that most pregnant women can work while they are still in labor. However, safety at work depends on many factors like:
- What do you do to make a living
- your health status
- Any complications that may arise from your pregnancy
Talk to your doctor if there are any concerns regarding your job, or if you feel that your employment puts you at risk.
- Chemicals, radiation, and other hazardous materials
- Long periods of standing or climbing
- Lifting or carrying heavy loads
- Vibrations and loud noises coming from heavy machinery
- extreme heat or cold
It is also important to consider the hours you work and how long it takes.
According to a 2014 study by Source of Japanese women, those who work more than 40 hours per week are at greater risk of miscarriage or preterm labor. The risk is higher for those who work 51-70 hours or 71+ hours.
The risk of developing cancer was highest during the first trimester.
A 2019 Danish study found that women who work more than two nights per week are at greater risk of miscarriage (32% vs. 32% for those who work during work hours).
This theory relates to your circadian rhythm, and how your body releases a hormone called Melatonin. It plays a part in protecting the placenta.
Related: Night shift work and miscarriage risk
Coping at work with common pregnancy symptoms
You can work safely or not. Early pregnancy symptoms could be causing you to feel all kinds of things.
These are the symptoms you should be able to manage on the job. If you have any of these symptoms or pain, such as cramping, spotting, nausea, or other problems, please consult your doctor.
Early in pregnancy, nausea and vomiting are common. Try to avoid getting sick if you feel unwell.
It can be helpful to eat small meals and snack made from bland foods throughout the day. You may find some relief by drinking ginger tea or ginger ale.
It may help to inform your employer if you suffer from severe morning sickness. This is not required.
If you are missing work or going to the toilet frequently, they will be able to better understand and (hopefully!) empathize with your situation.
It is possible to feel exhausted during the first trimester, and again when you get close to your due date
You should ensure that you get enough sleep during your non-work hours. Experts suggest that you should get 8 1/2 to 9 3/4 hours sleep every night during pregnancy.
You might also consider reducing your work load if you are sick or tired. You might consider getting help for chores like yard work and grocery shopping.
Pregnant women need to drink more water. Experts recommend drinking 8-12 cups of fluids per day. Keep a large water bottle handy at your desk.
You may need to use the bathroom more often than usual due to increased hydration. If your supervisor permits, you might consider taking shorter and more frequent breaks than longer and less frequent ones.
Intentionally holding your urine too long can cause your bladder to weaken and even lead you to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Back or pelvic pain
You may feel more pains as hormones cause your joints and ligaments to become looser. As your belly grows, you may feel pain in your pelvis or back.
Some tips to reduce discomfort are:
- If your job requires you to stand or move around a lot, wear supportive shoes like sneakers.
- Lift with your lower body and not your back.
- You should take breaks whenever you need to rest your body. To reduce back strain, prop one of your feet on a stool or box if you are standing for a long time. You can support your lower back by using a small pillow if you are sitting for long periods.
- Wear a pregnancy support belt to reduce the pressure on your pelvis and back.
- To ease the soreness, use heating pads or ice pack. Heating pads should not be placed on the stomach. For additional pain relief, consult your doctor if the pain persists.
Your employer might be able offer you certain accommodations to make your job easier. Your employer may not discriminate against a pregnant woman, a mother with complications or a baby who is unable to perform your job duties temporarily.
You are entitled to be treated as other workers with temporary disabilities. This could mean that you can be assigned light duty, other assignments or disability leave, provided these are available to all workers with temporary disabilities.
Disability? Although pregnancy isn’t considered a disability in the traditional sense, some complications of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, might be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA span>
For more information about the conditions, please click here.
Remember that policies vary between states and workplaces. For more information about your rights, please contact the human resources (HR), department of your job.
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When and how to share your pregnancy news
There is no standard when your employer should know about your pregnancy.
It may be easy to let them know immediately. You might prefer to keep the news secret for different reasons.
These are some considerations when sharing your news:
- If your job requires heavy lifting, chemical exposure, or other dangers, you may want to share earlier than expected.
- If you are feeling sick or have pregnancy complications, it is a good idea to tell your doctor as soon as possible.
- If you are awaiting a promotion or performance review and fear that the news could impact your rating, it may be a good idea to wait.
- If you are concerned about how your boss will react to the news, you can choose to take your time
You don’t have to tell your employer what week it is, but you should keep in mind that eventually you will start showing up.
You might also tell your colleagues at work. Your boss will prefer to hear from you, rather than via social media or the grapevine.
These are some tips to tell your boss
- Before you discuss your pregnancy, make sure to check your workplace’s policies regarding pregnancy. This information might be found in an employee handbook, or on an internal site. For help, contact HR if you are unable to find the information.
- Instead of merely mentioning your pregnancy, make an appointment to talk about it. You will have time to ask questions and to brainstorm solutions for any problems that you may be facing.
- Bring a list with you of possible ways to switch duties with your co-workers during pregnancy, and possibly coverage on your next leave. Although your boss might not accept your suggestions, it will show that you are proactive and have thought of these things.
- Talk about how much time you plan to take off once your child is born. Be open if you aren’t sure yet. It might help to have looked at your childcare options before.
- Be positive. It’s okay to be sorry for your pregnancy. It’s a joyful time. Your employer should know that you are a valuable member of the team, and that this is not changing because you’re pregnant.
- Get help. You might want to bring a representative of HR with you if you are worried that your boss will not be excited about your news.
- After your meeting, follow up by writing. To put down the plan that you have discussed, send an email or letter to your boss. This will prevent any problems later.
How do you ask for a flexible timetable
You may already know that prenatal appointments are a time-consuming task.
These appointments will likely become more frequent as your pregnancy progresses. If you have complications, you may need to be seen for additional tests and appointments.
Your employer should be open about the time you need to fit these appointments in. To maintain a healthy pregnancy, it is important to see your doctor regularly.
Another option is to ask for a flexible timetable.
Flex schedules can vary depending on where you work, but they can include (among other options).
- Coming in late and leaving early in the day
- arriving early and departing earlier in the day
- You can change the time you take your lunch break so that you come in late or leave earlier
- Working more hours on specific days of the week, and taking a day off
A flexible schedule is not an option. Here are some tips to help you plan your appointments.
- If possible, make your appointments during lunch or on a day off. Schedule your appointments during your lunch hour or on a day off if you have the option. This will allow you to save more sick time for paid leave.
- Ask your healthcare provider whether they offer alternate hours. To accommodate busy work schedules, some offices offer evening and weekend appointments.
- Your employer should be notified as soon as possible about your appointments. If necessary, your employer may be able to provide coverage.
- Keep your calendar close at hand when making appointments. This will ensure that you don’t have to conflict with other meetings or tasks.
- Ask your partner about the guidelines they have for taking time off work to go to appointments with you.
Maternity leave considerations
After giving birth, you’ll need to take some time to heal. You’ll also need to establish breastfeeding routines and other important rhythms like sleep.
A short-term disability that provides 6 weeks of paid time after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after a cesarean section, is called
If you have any complications, you may be eligible for leave before birth.
Your workplace might offer a paternity or maternity leave program. For more information, contact HR
- What’s Available
- When you need to leave
- What forms or other information (such as doctor notes) do you need to provide
Parents can take up to 12 weeks off to care for their child under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Depending on how many sick days you have, the leave can be either paid or unpaid.
You must have been employed by your employer for at most one year (12 months) prior to applying for the leave. Your workplace must also have at least 50 employees (private or public sector), and must be managed by a public agency or school.
You can think about how much time you will need before you communicate this to your employer. Keep in mind, however, that the amount of time you need or desire may vary depending on many factors.
FMLA requires that you are offered either your original job, or a similar role with the same benefits and pay upon your return to work.
Additional information on FMLA can found at the U.S. Department of Labor Website
Signs that you might need to quit working sooner than you think.
As you get closer to your due date, even the best plans can change. If you have health problems, such as preterm labor, your doctor might suggest that you quit work before the due date.
Preterm labor symptoms include:
- abdominal cramping, pain, or pressure
- Watery, bloody or any other discharge from the vagina
- Increased discharge of any type
- back pain or ache
- Painful or non-painful contractions that occur frequently or often
- membrane rupture (also called your water breaking)
Preterm labor is not the only problem that could affect your ability to work. Other than actual conditions, you might not be sleeping well, or have other medical problems that could make it difficult to do your job.
Talk to your doctor about any complications or symptoms. Your doctor might have some suggestions on how to make your work more enjoyable. Or they may be able write you a note to request certain accommodations.
Your doctor might recommend that you take a leave of absence if work isn’t safe.
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You are able to safely work throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Every pregnancy and every job situation are unique. It is best to research your area and get information from your HR department.
If you have any questions about your or your baby’s health, they can help.