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Working While Pregnant: How to Handle It Like a Boss

Sometimes it can feel like you’re working a full-time job while pregnant. If you have a full-time job, such as one that requires you to be at work, and not to the doctor, or to be friendly to clients, even when you feel like you are about to vomit, this can be a problem.

Don’t panic, mama. Here are some tips for working while pregnant.

Your Workplace Rights During Pregnancy

What is the first step? Fairness. Fairness is important, regardless of whether you are a working parent or a parent-to-be. Start by learning about your legal rights. Keep this information handy for future reference.

You must treat your pregnancy as any other employee disability.

Employers with more than 15 employees cannot discriminate against pregnant women. Pregnancy should be considered a temporary medical handicap. Local and state laws may provide protection against discrimination in pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, or might become pregnant, you can’t get fired.

An employer cannot fire, denial a job or deny promotion to a pregnant woman due to her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition as long as she is able to perform the main functions of her job. Not legally, an employer cannot make it easier for pregnant women to do their job.

Related 11 Ways to Enjoy Your Maternity Leave

Leave can be taken only if you are able to do your job.

Employees who are pregnant cannot be made to take time off while they are still working, as long as they can complete their work tasks. Employers can’t force employees to take leave if they are absent for a pregnancy-related reason and she recovers.

All employees with medical conditions are entitled to the same benefits.

You would be a great help to your coworkers if they offered you the same benefits, leave and temporary disability insurance that employees with other medical conditions or disabilities receive.

Your maternity leave can be taken before your baby is born.

If you are unable to work because of pregnancy-related issues or the Family and Medical Leave Act (the Act), you can still take unpaid maternity leaves. Your job protection will last for 12 weeks, which includes the time between birth and now.

RELATED: Know Your FMLA Maternity Leave Rights

Spouses can be covered for pregnancy-related conditions by insurance if their company has spousal coverage.

Employers can’t deny coverage for the care of a pregnant spouse of a male employee, provided that they are covered by comprehensive insurance.

Single mothers-to-be can’t be denied the standard benefits.

Married employees cannot receive pregnancy-related benefits.

Pregnancy and Balancing Work

It’s not okay to let your pregnancy take you away from work, despite the difficulties and discomforts. These tips will help you handle every situation, from sharing your pregnancy news to preparing for maternity leave.

Tell your boss about your pregnancy news

When you announce your news, ensure that your boss is informed. You want her to hear it directly from you and not through the office gossip. To tell your boss that you are expecting, and to inform her when your baby is due, schedule an appointment. Don’t be too personal and keep your tone positive. (Whatever you do – don’t take that sonogram image outta your pocket! )

Marjorie Greenfield MD, author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book, says, “Be prepared with an overview of your company’s policy on maternity-leave, but don’t discuss your specific plans for time off yet.” Your boss will need to be reassured that you won’t lose your productivity. Once you have your boss on board, you can tell as many people as you wish. Soon, even the guy at the mailroom will be aware.

RELATED How to Get More Paid Days during Maternity Leave

Treat your symptoms so that they don’t affect your job performance.

If you are suffering from “morning sick”, which up to 85 percent do, it is best to eat, eat and eat.

Lindsay Mazotti MD, a San Francisco physician, says that “constantly snacking kept me queasiness at bay,” so she kept Kashi bars, Goldfish, and Goldfish in her pockets all the time. Healthy snacks are small and easy to eat throughout the day. Dr. Greenfield says that ginger ale, gingersnaps and lemon drops can be helpful for many women. If you feel nauseated, make sure you have a place near the door so you can quickly leave if necessary. Consider asking your doctor for medication if your symptoms are severe.

RELATED: 15 Tips for Dealing With Morning Sickness

Fighting fatigue will be your biggest challenge. Jane Roper, an advertising copywriter from Boston, says that when I was pregnant with my twins I was so tired that I once took a nap in the supply cupboard. To boost your energy, get moving. Nancy W. Hall, Ph.D., author of Balancing Pregnancy and Work, suggests that a quick walk during lunch can make a big difference. Even something as simple and easy as chewing mint-flavored gum can be refreshing. You might also consider getting up earlier to go to bed.

Take lots of notes and make “cheat sheets” to help you focus during pregnancy. Your most difficult tasks should be completed first thing in the morning, or when you feel your best. Do not accept additional duties until you feel confident in your ability to handle the basics. Keep track of meetings and appointments with your e-mail calendar.

Make wise doctor appointments.

If your ob/gyn is nearby, plan them before work or during lunch. Try to be the first patient either in a morning session or afternoon. This will make it less likely that the doctor will be late. Waiting is normal. Keep in mind that you will need to wait.

You should also plan your appointments according your work calendar. Don’t miss a day when you know that you have your monthly presentation or weekly meeting. Sometimes, your doctor might require you to stay to receive additional treatment or tests. You don’t want to be stressed about missing important work functions.

Make sure you have all the details in place before you leave work.

Tell your boss a month in advance when you plan to quit work and the date you will be back. Dr. Greenfield says that setting a return date will help your colleagues see the light at end of the tunnel. Plan for the most time possible. If you return earlier than you planned, it will make you look like a hero.

A few weeks before your departure, create a list of the tasks that you are responsible for. Make suggestions to your boss about how you can get them covered by other coworkers. Discuss with your boss any work issues you may have while you are gone and how she can help. Don’t promise too much, but don’t overextend yourself. Your priority should be to allow your baby to recover in the first few weeks.

RELATED: Your Ultimate Guide to Maternity Leave

You might consider returning with a more flexible schedule.

According to a national survey, more companies are offering parental perks like flexible start and finish times, telecommuting, or compressed workweeks. These are three ways you can make this trend work for your company:

1. Talk about easing back in and setting a regular, flexible schedule. You may fear that your boss won’t allow you to return, and she might be more open than you think. Sally Thornton, who was a former human resource director and is the president of Fl experience Consulting, San Francisco, says that if you have been a highly-performing employee, your bargaining power is strong. But don’t tell me, “I can only work three days per week.” Focus on the benefits of a flexible schedule for your company and how it can help you achieve specific goals and possibly save money. 

2. Take your baby to work. According to the Parenting in The Workplace Institute, this is possible and it can be a productive way for people to get work done. Babies are allowed in more than 100 workplaces. Visit babiesatwork.org for tips on how to make it work at your company.

3. Part-time and freelance jobs are available. In recent years, there have been many companies that offer temporary, part-time and project-based jobs. MomCorps.com, On-Ramps.com, FlexibleResources.com and FlexibleExecutives.com are just a few. There are also industry-specific websites, like FlexTimeLawyers.com and Aquent (for marketers executives and designers), which offer other options.

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