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Momma’s Got to Work: Working While Pregnant

Whether you’re a nurse, law enforcement officer, engineer, or plant operator, it’s crucial to understand everything you need to know about working while pregnant. As your belly grows and your body changes, you must put in place certain measures to ensure your comfort, health, and well-being of the baby growing inside of you.

  • Published on: 26 May 2021
  • 7 min read
Momma’s Got to Work: Working While Pregnant

Working at a place you cherish has many perks, from enhancing your social life, building your career, and collaborating with talented coworkers to getting that paycheck, of course. But working while pregnant is a whole different story; it dramatically changes how you approach your work life in a myriad of ways.

Whether you’re a nurse, law enforcement officer, engineer, or plant operator, it’s crucial to understand everything you need to know about working while pregnant. As your belly grows and your body changes, you must put in place certain measures to ensure your comfort, health, and well-being of the baby growing inside of you.

Don’t worry – we’re here to help you on your nine-month journey. In this quick guide, you’ll learn more about managing your pregnancy while working, including your rights and what to expect. Look ahead for challenges you might face and how to overcome them.

First Up, Tell Your Employer You're Pregnant

working while pregnant

Juggling work and pregnancy can be stressful and challenging, especially if you already have other kids. These difficulties associated with working while pregnant can be easier to handle if your boss knows about your pregnancy. That’s why you should let your employer know that you’re pregnant when you are comfortable, most often after the 1st trimester.

Secure a meeting with your supervisor, office manager, or boss and have an honest discussion about your pregnancy, work, and what your maternity leave will look like. Besides, talk about what financial and health benefits you can expect from your employer. Get all these in writing and, more importantly, know your rights as a pregnant woman in the workplace under the Family & Medical Leave Act1.

Once you've informed your employer about your pregnancy, it may also lighten your load further if you were to announce that you're pregnant to your colleagues. This is especially important if you work in a collaborative environment. The bottom line is that you should be upfront right from the beginning so that no one thinks that you're lagging or slacking on your job.

Is Your Job Safe During Pregnancy?

waitress

Most women can continue to work while pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2. But it's important to remember that some jobs are, by design, safer and more suitable for you than others. Even so, you can avoid most job problems with the right adjustments and by putting certain measures in place. Here's how to know if your job is safe during pregnancy:

  • Do you operate dangerous or heavy machinery? If you do, you’d be better off asking your employer to change your position while you’re pregnant. In the meanwhile, if you’re having trouble addressing this issue, you can contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office.
  • Is your job strenuous? If your work involves physical exertion, working long hours on your feet, or heavy lifting, talk to your OB/GYN or doctor. If they pose a risk to your pregnancy, inform your boss immediately, so you can get assigned less-tasking duties.
  • Do you risk exposure to harmful materials? If you’re exposed to radiation, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide, and other harmful chemicals, you should consider safer alternatives with your employer.
  • Do you work in extreme heat or cold conditions? Speak with your doctor about the specific conditions and pass the recommendation on to your boss. That’s because temperature stress can hurt your pregnancy?
  • Working in healthcare: If you’re a medical technician, nurse, or physician, you may be worried about exposure to radiation, dangerous chemicals, and other harmful toxins while at work. While you can take necessary precautions, you can discuss alternative tasks that will remove the risk of exposure.

Knowing if your job is safe when you’re pregnant is a matter of putting your health and comfort first. Wear a mask, protective clothing, and talk to your doctor to inform you about circumstances that may be dangerous for your pregnancy.

What Are Your Rights as a Pregnant Woman in the Workplace?

workplace for pregnant women

First things first, it pays to know your workplace legal rights when you’re pregnant. Of course, you must understand how the law protects these rights:

You’ve got the right to employment protection

The very first right you should know is that your employer can’t deny you a job, refuse a promotion, or fire you because you’re pregnant. This is true even if you may get pregnant, as long as you perform your job’s major functions. Note, however, that the law doesn’t require your employer to make it easier for you to deliver your work duties.

You must be treated as any other employee with a temporary disability

If your employer has over 15 employees, you cannot be discriminated against because of your pregnancy or related conditions. While pregnancy in and of itself isn't considered a disability, certain cases like preeclampsia gestational diabetes may be guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)3. You'll also be protected by other local and state laws on pregnancy and disability discrimination.

You can take early maternity leave

If you're no longer able to work due to your pregnancy or any related complication, you can take part of your maternity leave before delivery. This right is granted under the Family and Medical Leave Act, in which case your job is secure for 12 weeks. And includes the period between before and after childbirth.

You must receive the same benefits as any other worker with a medical condition

You’re entitled to the same benefits that other employees with disabilities or medical conditions get. These include leave, medical benefits, and temporary disability insurance.

You cannot be forced to take a leave

Unless you can no longer perform your major job functions, your employer can’t force you to resign or take a leave due to your pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Even if you miss work due to a complication and recover, they can’t force you to remain at home until childbirth.

You’re entitled to standard benefits no matter your marital status

It doesn’t matter if you’re married or a single mom-to-be, your employer can’t deny you standard pregnancy or maternity-related benefits.

Pregnancy Challenges While Working and How to Cope

pregnant women's right in the workplace

Dealing with job-related stress is already hard enough. When you add pregnancy to the equation, things can go south pretty quickly.

Morning sickness (vomiting and nausea)

There’s a good chance you’ll get morning sickness at work. This is especially the case during the first trimester when you’ve probably not informed your employer and colleagues about your pregnancy.

How to cope: If possible, stay away from nausea triggers as much as you can. At work, stock up on bland foods like crackers. Ginger tea and ginger ale may come in handy, too.

Dealing with fatigue

This is another tricky symptom of pregnancy that can bum you out at work.

How to cope: Get plenty of rest at home and take plenty of breaks at work. Avoid strenuous activities, plus limit travel and the amount of time you’re on your feet.

Dealing with stress 

It’s tough dealing with both job-related and pregnancy-related stress. It can usurp the energy you require to care for yourself and your unborn child.

How to cope: Don’t be afraid to share your lows, frustrations, and stressors with your loved ones and trusted colleagues. Try anything that’ll relax you, from yoga, meditation, and so on.

Ensuring comfort

When your body is changing rapidly, it can be challenging to maintain your comfort at work.

How to cope: Be prepared for the good, bad, and ugly days. Take control of your to-do list and use a supportive, comfortable chair when sitting. When standing, place one of your feet on a box, low stool, or footrest.

When Should She Stop Working?

In most jobs, a woman may continue working as long as she chooses or as her body can. However, some jobs require or advise pregnant women to rest earlier, such as a flight attendant or heavy-machinery operator.

Your best course of action is to talk to your doctor and figure the moment you should stop going to work. Even so, if you’re unable to work, your doctor might suggest that you take early leave.

Sources:

1. www.dol.gov

2. www.cdc.gov

3. www.eeoc.gov


Avery K.

Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Avery K.

When she isn’t looking after the many needs of her 2 kids, Avery enjoys taking walks in the park, enjoying nature, and getting her daily fix of caffeine.

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