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Lifting and work restrictions during pregnancy: Talk it over with your doctor

I was astonished by this photo of a pregnant lady on the sidelines of a football match with her child. It’s amazing what women do, especially when pregnant, to keep their lives on track.

This picture reminded me of our ongoing conversation about letters we send to patients’ employers regarding work restrictions during pregnancy.

You don’t have to be sedentary during pregnancy. We want you to exercise safely. The ergonomic baby carrier, which is holding the 3-year old in the photo, acts as a counterweight and gives the woman a break.

The limitations of pregnancy are complex and women and their doctors have many things to think about before they submit a work restriction note.

Lifting: What do we know?

Working in heavy lifting jobs during pregnancy is a concern that is often cited. However, medical data is not reliable regarding the risks to baby and mother from lifting during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that women who work in physically demanding jobs, such as manual lifting, are at greater risk of preterm birth. Another study found that women who lift heavy objects at work, but not those who do it outside of the home, can have obstetric complications.

The evidence is not conclusive so obstetricians are recommending different things.

Common advice is to avoid lifting objects over 20 pounds during pregnancy. This doesn’t take into consideration the many factors that could impact the lift. What is the lifting frequency of this woman? Are they lifting them from the ground? What is the object’s height? How far along is her pregnancy?

Each one of these factors can make a big difference. If these factors aren’t considered carefully, women may be prohibited from lifting certain types of weights that aren’t dangerous at this stage of her pregnancy. The restriction could prevent her from performing essential parts of her job.

Standing: What do we know?

Standing is the most common activity that women associate with their jobs. However, there are far fewer studies on standing during pregnancy than those that focus on lifting.

If you have a job that requires you to stand a lot, it is reasonable to request a stool, chair, frequent rest breaks, and an increase in the footwear requirements. These requests are simple for employers to accommodate and allow you to do your job more comfortably.

Smarter work restrictions

Give your obstetrician all details about your job before he/she writes a note restricting your activities.

The article “ My Obstetrician got me fired ” was the one that made the most impression on my last year. It showed me the seriousness of routine activity restrictions and how important it is to put our words in those letters.

You might have to take early pregnancy leave if you are unable to fulfill a doctor’s request or if your employer is unable to make reasonable accommodations.

Some employees can take 12 weeks off while pregnant under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Their jobs are protected. An employee can be fired if she isn’t able or ready to return to work within 12 weeks.

Talk with your provider

Work restrictions during pregnancy are not a one-size-fits all solution.

There are certain situations where you should limit your activity and restrict your lifting. Patients who have a chronic back condition or a job that requires them to bend and lift heavy objects more than 20 pounds may need to limit their activity.

Most women in good health can work safely through pregnancy and most employers will make reasonable accommodations for their employees.

We are health care providers and we want to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy. We don’t want a patient to lose her job or employee benefits because we requested a change of job activities.

Talk to your provider about your job and the accommodations that your employer may be willing to provide. You should be able find a solution for your health and job security if you work with your doctor.

Getting it done

The photo? The woman in the photo is actually Dr. Megan Meier from Oklahoma, who practices sports medicine. She went to work when her last-minute conflict made it impossible for her to have someone to watch her 3-year old.

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