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Pregnancy and work: Your complete guide

Many women can continue working during pregnancy, sometimes right up to their due dates. You might need to change your work hours or cease working if your job is too strenuous or you are exposed to harmful chemicals. You may be eligible for disability benefits and protection from discrimination if you are pregnant. You should get up and move often if you have a desk job. If you feel ill or need rest, take a break.

Photo credit: iStock.com / lorenzoantonucci


  • Are you able to work while pregnant?
  • Possible complications that could prevent you from working
  • What happens to me if I am pregnant and I cannot work?
  • Pregnancy discrimination: Understanding your workplace rights
  • How to manage pregnancy and work
  • How to be comfortable at work during pregnancy

It can be exhausting to raise a child. In most cases, working while pregnant is safe. This is true even if you make sure that your baby and yourself are well taken care of. Continue reading to learn more about pregnancy and work. This includes information on when and if you should stop working, what your rights are at work, and how to hide or manage pregnancy symptoms at work.

Are you able to work while pregnant?

It depends on the job you have. Let’s say you are healthy and not at greater risk of pregnancy complications. Your job doesn’t require exposure to toxic chemicals or physical demands. You can probably work up to your due date if you are healthy.

Each job is unique, so it’s possible to continue working in a variety of jobs outside the traditional office setting. You may need to discuss with your manager if you are a heavy lifter or have to stand for long periods of time. There is no set time when you should start your maternity leave. All jobs have different physical, emotional and mental tolls. To decide what is best for you and your baby, you will likely have to consider all options, including your financial and health situation.

You can stop working as long as you want until your baby is born. However, it’s okay to take a break and make sure that you rest whenever possible. Consider taking a week off to prepare for your maternity leave.


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For strenuous jobs,

You may need to modify your work schedule if your job involves physical labor. Research has shown that women who are physically demanding while pregnant are more likely to have complications during pregnancy.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your job so they can help you create a plan that suits your needs. You will need to make changes to your job if it is physically demanding.

You should take breaks if you have to stand a lot during pregnancy. You can also walk in place or do gentle stretching to increase blood flow while standing. Switch to something less strenuous if you can. If your manager agrees, you might consider sharing the work with a colleague to do the desk work and the standing responsibilities.

You can take a day off from work to reduce fatigue if you have spare PTO days. This is particularly important during the second and third trimesters. You can also rest at home if you feel tired or irritable.

If you are a worker with toxic chemicals,

You should inform your doctor immediately if you are exposed to known reproductive hazards, such as heavy metals like lead and mercury, organic solvents or other chemical chemicals or radiation.

These substances, known as teratogens can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, congenital structural disability, abnormal fetal or infant development, and preterm birth. These dangers are common in computer chip factories and dry-cleaning plants.

Ask your employer for information on any toxic substances that you might be exposed at work. OSHA requires chemical manufacturers and importers to thoroughly assess the chemicals they produce. To let users know of potential hazards, they must also create a Safety Data Sheet. An SDS should be provided by your employer for all chemicals you might come into contact with.

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Bring the SDS to your next prenatal appointment with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any health risks at work.

Possible complications that could prevent you from working

If you are pregnant, you may need to reduce or stop working.

  • Preterm labor is possible for women who are pregnant with multiples of twins or more
  • High blood pressure or at high risk of preeclampsia
  • You have been diagnosed with placenta prévia
  • If you have a history of stillbirths, preterm births, or miscarriage, you may have a cervical deficiency.
  • If your baby isn’t growing normally, you may have intrauterine growth restriction.

Your doctor may recommend that you be placed on pregnancy bedrest, which limits your ability to move, depending on the severity of your condition. While total bed rest is not usually recommended, it can be helpful to limit your work hours. These diagnoses can also cause stress and anxiety in pregnancy, which could lead to further complications.

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What happens to me if I am pregnant and I cannot work?

Imagine your healthcare provider deciding that pregnant women shouldn’t work or could cause more problems. If this happens, your healthcare provider will recommend that you take precautions while on the job or that you provide proof to your employer that it is unsafe.

You may have some options. For instance, if you are on bedrest but still work at a desk job your manager or healthcare provider may allow you to work remotely. If working remotely is not possible, your provider may ask you to stop working until your baby is born.

It can be frightening to think of being unable to work and not receiving a regular paycheck while you are pregnant, especially if you’re making major life changes. Talk to your HR department if your employer offers health insurance. You may be eligible for short-term disability benefits. A nonprofit organization such as Planned Parenthood may be able to provide low-cost prenatal services. A Better Balance and other nonprofits can also help you understand your rights. (View more financial resources for pregnant woman ).

Pregnancy discrimination: Understanding your workplace rights

Your healthcare provider may decide that it is unsafe for you to work while you are pregnant. There are laws against discrimination that will protect you from being fired because of your pregnancy. Federal legislation in the United States helps to ensure your job safety throughout your pregnancy, as well as for your recovery and postpartum period.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

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Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), states that you cannot be fired, laid off or paid less if you are capable of performing your job duties. Pregnant women cannot be denied a promotion or new job.

The PDA requires that your employer offer the same leave options to you as workers with temporary disabilities if you have to take a leave due to pregnancy complications. This includes offering you the same amount of disability leave as other workers, whether or not you are paid.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Although pregnancy is not considered a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), protects women who are pregnant and have complications. The ADA covers pregnancy complications such as pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome and gestational diabetes.

Your boss can make accommodations if you have a prenatal complication that prevents you working as before. This could include allowing you to do less physical work or allowing you to work from home if possible. This could include temporarily allowing you to do less physical work, or allowing you the option of working from home if you are able. However, your employer must not be deemed unduly disadvantaged (significant difficulty or expense span>).

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Employers who have at least 15 employees must comply with the ADA and the PDA. Check with the U.S. Department of Labor if your state has nondiscrimination employment laws.

Family & Medical Leave Act

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), states that private companies with 50 or more employees must offer eligible workers – people who have been employed by the company for at least 12 weeks – time off to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child or for pregnancy-related absences. Many states have their own family leave policies, as do many businesses. Check with your HR department to find out what other options may be available.

Visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

How to manage pregnancy and work

Women often tell their bosses that they are pregnant within the first trimester. Your HR department should know. They will walk you through the company’s maternity policies and let your know if you have additional family leave benefits beyond FMLA.

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Morning sickness at work?

Around 70% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting during their pregnancy. This is especially true in the first trimester. Ask your provider for information about morning sickness relief. However, many women don’t feel any relief until the second trimester.

You can bring a “morning sick kit” to work with you, which includes toothpaste and mouthwash. You should be prepared for coworkers asking you if your feeling okay if you run to the toilet. It may be easier to keep your morning sickness secret if you work remotely. )

You may need to inform your boss sooner than planned if your morning sickness is severe or persistent. Consider whether you will need any accommodations before telling your boss the news.

If your pregnant and you are afraid that people won’t consider you serious,

While pregnancy is a major change, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop working hard at your job. Many women have survived difficult pregnancies and other circumstances. Although you might face complications during pregnancy that make it difficult to concentrate on work, in the end, you may find that your pregnancy helps you prioritize and focus on the important things.

Talking about your pregnancy at work is fine. You will find what is right for you. If you have a positive work environment, your colleagues will be supportive and helpful, especially when you are having a difficult day.

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It’s okay to have a few minutes of solitude throughout the day.

You need to travel for work?

Women with healthy pregnancies are able to travel safely while pregnant. However, it is important that you talk to your healthcare provider first, especially if your pregnancy is in its third trimester. In case of emergency, it’s a good idea that you have a copy your medical records.

Most airlines allow pregnant women to fly domestically up to 36 weeks. International flights may have cut-offs earlier. Double-check the regulations with the airline before you book your flights. Many employers have COVID-19 travel policies, which means they are following CDC guidelines for business travel during the pandemic.

For questions regarding being a parent working at your company,

When you can, ask for their advice and support. Ask your colleagues who are more experienced about being pregnant at work questions such as:

  • How was your maternity-leave proposal?
  • How were your coworkers affected by your announcement of pregnancy?
  • How can you be productive even when you feel tired?
  • How do you deal with absentmindedness?
  • Do you know of any support groups for new parents, either virtual or in person?
  • How do you balance work and family life?
  • Does your manager offer flexible work arrangements?

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How to be comfortable at work during pregnancy

You should take breaks if you have been sitting still for too long. Stitches and swelling can be relieved by moving your feet during pregnancy.

Moving is important. Keep moving if you have a sedentary job. Stretching exercises can be done while you are up to relieve or prevent lower back pain that is common during pregnancy.

Comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes are important. Pregnancy compression socks may be a good option to prevent or reduce swelling.

Get a lot of water. A tall water bottle should be kept in your office. Keep it topped up often. It will serve as a reminder to get up more often and use the bathroom.

Regular meals and snacks are important. Regular eating can prevent morning sickness and blood sugar drops. To ease constipation caused by pregnancy, choose balanced, nutritious lunches and eat whole grains and cruciferous vegetables.

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Ask for workplace modifications. If you feel that your workstation is causing pain, place your feet under it. Request wrist guards, splints or any other equipment that will prevent repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Reduce stress. You might also find counseling or therapy during your free time.

Do not give in to guilt. Your baby’s health and your own health are important.

Accept help. Your coworkers may want to take a few minutes of your time and babysit you, and that’s fine. This is a very special time in your lives, so it’s important to recognize and celebrate major changes at work.


BabyCenter’s editorial staff is dedicated to providing accurate and reliable information on pregnancy and parenting. We rely on reliable sources when creating and updating content:

  • Respected health organizations
  • Expert groups for doctors and other specialists
  • Published studies in peer-reviewed journals

We believe that you should always be able to verify the source of any information you see. Find out more about our medical and editorial review policies.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2018. Considerations regarding employment during pregnancy and postpartum. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2018/04/employment-considerations-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period [Accessed January 2022]

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Travel during pregnancy. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/travel-during-pregnancy [Accessed January 2022]

Salihu HM, et al. 2012. Pregnancy at work. Occupational Medicine 62(2):88-97. https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/62/2/88/1480061/Pregnancy-in-the-workplace [Accessed January 2022]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. 2019. Pregnancy complications. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/pregnancy-complications [Accessed January 2022]

MothertoBaby. Fact sheets. Answers to frequently asked questions regarding breastfeeding and pregnancy. https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/ [Accessed January 2022]

U.S. Department of Labor. Undated. Family and Medical Leave Act. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla [Accessed January 2022]

Dave, Dhaval and Yang, Muzhe 2019. Working during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the maternal and fetal health. National Bureau of Economic Research. https://www.nber.org/papers/w26343 [Accessed January 2022]

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Undated. Fact Sheet: Pregnancy Discrimination. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/fact-sheet-pregnancy-discrimination [Accessed January 2022]

Cleveland Clinic 2017. Morning Sickness (Nausea, and Vomiting of Pregnancy). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16566-morning-sickness-nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy [Accessed January 2022]

Tantibanchachai, Chanapa. 2014. Teratogens. Arizona State University’s Embryo Project. https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/teratogens [Accessed January 2022. ]


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