Today, more and more women are working while they’re pregnant. In fact, 66 percent of women worked during their pregnancy between 2006 and 2008. That’s a 22 percent jump since the early 1960s.

But working while pregnant can be challenging. After all, your changing body is working over time to support you and your little one’s development. Knowing how to handle those challenges will make working while pregnant easier.

Here are some tips on how to achieve just that.

1. Know yourself

It’s important for moms-to-be to understand how work may affect their body, mind, and soul. Actively attend to your needs and be honest about your limits. This can help reduce stress and keep you productive.

2. Reduce nausea

Keep a stash of crackers, canned fruit, and other bland foods in your work desk or locker. You can snack on these throughout the day to ease your upset stomach.

You should also try and avoid the foods and smells that you know will trigger queasiness and vomiting. That may mean eating lunch on a bench outside the office rather than with co-workers in the break room.

3. Battle fatigue

Exhaustion and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. But if you find it hard to rest during the workday, there are other ways to battle fatigue. You can eat iron- and protein-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, whole-grain cereal, beans, or red meat to keep the energy up.

You can also walk around the office or sit down (if you’re on your feet all day) for a few minutes every few hours to help fight tiredness. And make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

4. Find some comfort

Moving around not only boosts energy, it can also ease muscle stiffness and prevent fluid buildup that happens during pregnancy. But there are other ways to comfort your aching body while you work. If you have to lift even the lightest item, make sure to bend at your knees and keep the item close to your body, lifting with your legs.

If you stand all day, use a small box or footrest to elevate one foot at a time while you stand. If you sit all day, use an adjustable chair with lower back support or place a small cushion behind your back if your chair isn’t adjustable. Make sure to take quick, frequent breaks to stretch your body and shake out any tension.

5. Reduce stress

Pregnant or not, you will experience stress at work. But with fluctuating pregnancy hormones, it’s even more important to lessen workplace stress for you and your baby’s health.

This could mean:

  • reducing your task load
  • prioritizing your work with to-do lists and reminders
  • leaning on a coworker or friend to talk out work-related frustrations
  • practicing relaxing breathing techniques during the day

You might also consider cutting back on hours if financially possible to do so.

Other workplace tips

Make sure to speak with your doctor often about work-related concerns. This way, you can both decide whether you need to change your job duties, if you need special accommodations, or if you need to stop working.

Change your routine if you need. If you take public transportation to work, find a new route that will allow you to use escalators or elevators. If you drive, find a safer route to travel and give yourself extra time on the road.

Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals, heavy lifting, excessive noise, and extreme temperatures.

Know your rights

The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act — an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant workers.

Under the law, a boss cannot fire or refuse to hire a pregnant woman. They also must provide new mothers with a safe space to pump breast milk. A workplace cannot force pregnant workers to take time off or change jobs. In certain cases, they must accommodate workers with pregnancy-related conditions.

Federal policy also prohibits workplace harassment of pregnant workers or workers with children.

Additionally, while the United States is the only developed country to not have a federal policy mandating parental leave, women and men at companies with 50 employees or more are entitled to up to 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave. This is under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

This is, of course, if you’re not working at a company that offers parental leave. Chances are you’re not. After all, only 11 percent of workers in the private sector have access to any paid family leave.

Plan accordingly

There’s no guarantee for what will happen over the nine months of your pregnancy. Planning for all possible outcomes can prepare you for the unexpected.

For example, schedule all your prenatal appointments on the same day each week so you can block out that time at work. If you are taking leave, speak with your boss about how your tasks will be handled. Try to organize your work so that it can be easily completed while you’re gone.

Keep an active to-do list so you can stay on top of your responsibilities and the errands you need to run. And keep your boss informed as much as possible about what accommodations you may need.

The takeaway

Above all else, take care of yourself. Seek out ways to deal with the challenges of working while pregnant. To help you cope, you can try the following ideas:

  • exercising
  • indulging in massages
  • splurging on goodies
  • taking mini-vacations
  • prenatal yoga
  • meditation
  • leisurely walks

You’ll also want to find a supportive group of moms-to-be you can lean on and talk to about pregnancy frustrations. On weekends, lounge around and pamper yourself with massages and manicures.

However you choose to practice self-care, make sure you are putting yourself first.

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