Working During Pregnancy
In general, pregnancy is considered a state of health. These days, more mothers-to be are working right up until a few days, or even a few hours, before they go into labor. The fact that fewer than 40 percent of working women in the United States get paid pregnancy leave may have something to do with this trend. In fact, the U.S. is one of only a handful of developed countries that doesn’t guarantee paid pregnancy leave to working women. That’s the bad news. The good news is that most women, depending on a few key factors, can actually work through their pregnancies without jeopardizing their--or their baby’s – health.
Can I work while I'm pregnant?
Probably, but that depends on many factors you should discuss in detail with your physician and perhaps your employer. If you’re free from any medical conditions and experiencing a normal, low-risk pregnancy (and if your job isn’t hazardous, strenuous, or overly stressful), you can most likely continue to go to work through your pregnancy.
Is it okay to work right up until I go into labor?
If your pregnancy is going along smoothly and your job isn’t causing any problems for you or the baby, chances are you can work right up until your baby arrives if that’s what you want to do. Keep in mind, however, that you will likely experience more fatigue and back pain toward the end of your pregnancy, so try to go easy on yourself. If you can afford to take a little time off before your due date, you may just want to take advantage of what will be your last “alone time” for quite a while.
Are there any reasons why I might need to stop working or cut back on my hours?
If your job is hazardous, excessively strenuous, or potentially harmful to the fetus’s health, your physician may recommend that you limit your working hours, ask for a different assignment at work, or stop working altogether.
If you have a health problem such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure, or if you’ve had problems with past pregnancies, your physician may want to restrict what you do both on and off the job. Be sure to discuss all of your health issues with your physician and ask specifically how they may affect your ability to do your job during your pregnancy.
Similarly, if your developing baby has a condition that could be adversely affected by the strain or stress of working, your physician may recommend that you make changes. Women who are carrying twins or other multiples may also have to stop working earlier than planned.
What kinds of jobs might be considered unsafe for a pregnant woman?
Any job that exposes you to substances proven harmful to a fetus—including pesticides, some cleaning solvents, lead, and certain chemicals- can be extremely dangerous. Industries that are considered potentially risky for pregnant women including farming, health care, some factory work, dry cleaners, printing, some crafts businesses (such as painting and pottery glazing), highway or tollbooth jobs (where workers breathe in high levels of lead and carbon monoxide from car exhaust), and the electronics industry. Health-care workers may be exposed to other substances harmful to a developing baby, such as chemotherapy drugs, x-rays, organic mercury and other chemicals, as well as many viruses and bacteria.
Teachers and childcare providers who are constantly exposed to many viruses and bacteria should practice good hand hygiene. People in those professions can decrease their germ exposure through frequent hand washing.
Federal law requires your employer to inform you about any toxic agents you may be exposed to on the premises and to protect the health and safety or pregnant woman.
Should I continue working if my job is very physically demanding?
This is another issue you should discuss at length with your physician. While moderate exercise is good for you and your baby, too much hard work can definitely be harmful. If your job requires heavy lifting – generally defined as more than 20 pounds on a regular basis – climbing, or prolonged standing or walking, your physician may suggest that you work fewer hours or stop performing certain tasks. Remember that the extra weight and your growing belly can affect your balance and may cause falls. In the earlier stages of your pregnancy, nausea, and dizziness can also increase your chances of injury, especially if your job is very physical.
Be sure to ask your physician for advice. According to a report by the American Medical Association, “physical activities at work, such as prolonged standing, bending, or shift work, pose the greatest hazard when present in combination and in circumstances where women have limited opportunity for rest.”
How can I keep comfortable and safeguard my and my baby's health on the job?
Even if your job is easy and hazard-free, you’re still going to experience some discomfort and fatigue while working during your pregnancy. The American Medical Association recommends that employers accommodate a woman’s increased physical requirements during pregnancy by allowing her to take breaks every few hours.
There are also steps you can take to stay as comfortable as possible. For example to prevent back pain, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that you wear low-heeled shoes with good support and make sure you have a chair with good back support. (You can also tuck small pillow behind your lower back.) Try wearing support stockings, which will prevent swelling in your legs and may decrease the odds of getting varicose veins.
If you have to sit for long periods of time, propping up your feet on a footrest – even a wastebasket or telephone book will help your circulation. You should try to avoid crossing your legs because it impedes circulation and may promise varicose veins. Also keep in mind that pregnant women are more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, so if you use a keyboard a lot, adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with the keyboard. And remember to give your hands and wrists a rest by talking regular breaks.
In addition, pregnant women should never skip meals and should drink plenty of water. Keep a full glass at your desk at all times to remind you to drink enough, and use bathroom breaks to take a short walk or do some stretches. (Varying your position is a great way to combat fatigue, too!)
If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, try resting one foot on a stool or box. Sit down often on your breaks. If that’s not possible, or if your feet and legs swell anyway, support stockings will help.
By taking a few precautions and listening to your body, you can ensure a healthy and productive nine months on the job.
What if I want to stop working while I am pregnant?
If you choose to stop working during your pregnancy, that is certainly your choice. Please understand that your physician cannot “take you out of work” unless there is a medical reason. Unless there is a medical diagnosis made that prohibits you from working, you will not be able to obtain disability benefits through your employer. Common discomforts of pregnancy are not generally considered medical indications to take a woman out of work. It is illegal for a physician to make a diagnosis simply at the woman’s request to be able to stop working.
How do I get my FMLA/Disability forms completed?
FMLA forms and Disability Forms are two different types of forms. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) is designed so that your employer will hold your job for you while you are out of work on approved medical leave. Disability will pay you a certain percentage of your normal income while you are out of work on medical leave.
Our policy states that forms will be completed within 5-7 business days, so please ensure that you give us the required forms as soon as possible. The first form for a patient will be completed free of charge. Each additional form incurs a $20 fee. The first form for a spouse is also filled out free of charge. Any additional forms for a spouse will also incur the $20 fee.
Please be aware that any intermittent leave forms are completed only after it is authorized by our physician.
After delivery, our policy is to approve 6 weeks postpartum leave for a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks of postpartum leave for a C-section delivery, regardless of what your employer allows. If you elect to remain out of work longer than 6 weeks, then you will have to arrange the additional leave with your employer before you deliver. Any additional postpartum leave will only be approved by your physician if you are experiencing a complication that requires close monitoring.
For more information, visit https://www.pregnantatwork.org/pregnant-women/