Health Library

Is Your Work Environment Safe?

PD Beauty and Health LS012552 A newly pregnant woman has many things to look forward to. In the nine months ahead, she will feel her baby growing inside her and prepare for the new addition for her family. But for the many women who continue to work during their pregnancy, the ongoing demands of work and home life can be daunting.

When you tell your colleagues about your pregnancy, express any concerns you are having about the ability to work while you are pregnant. If your company allows flexible work hours, consider adjusting your hours around the times you feel most alert and energetic. With a little planning, you can learn how to navigate the workplace as a healthy mother-to-be.

Toxic Substances

It is important to make sure you are not being exposed to harmful substances while you are pregnant. Continuous exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, including cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, pesticides, and paint, can potentially harm your developing baby. If you are concerned about a substance you are exposed to at work, talk to your doctor to find out if it could be harming your baby. Your doctor and your supervisor can help determine how to minimize your risks while you are pregnant.

Physically Demanding Duties

If your job requires that you be on your feet for long periods, lift heavy objects, or perform physically challenging tasks, you may need to limit these activities. Stop working right away and call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Contractions
  • Sudden and severe swelling that affects your hands, fingers, or face
  • Severe headaches
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Vision problems
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking of amniotic fluid
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Nausea or vomiting—Morning sickness early in pregnancy is common. But, if you have severe nausea or vomitting, talk to your doctor.
  • Baby has decreased activity

Overseas Traveling

If you are required to travel overseas while you are pregnant, make sure you have proper immunizations. Also, talk with your doctor to find out how you can prevent becoming ill from the organisms found in food and water of foreign countries.

Designing a Pregnancy-Friendly Workplace

To optimize your work environment during your pregnancy, consider the following strategies:

  • If you work at a desk, arrange your computer monitor, keyboard, and chair so that you are sitting more comfortably.
  • Change positions often, incorporating sitting, walking, and standing .
  • Keep snacks at your office to help you avoid skipping meals. Having a stash of bland foods like pretzels and crackers at your desk may help you curb nausea if you experience morning sickness.
  • Drink plenty of water each day.

Unwinding Outside of Work

When you are not working, be sure to unwind and de-stress so you are efficient and well-rested in the workplace. Allow yourself some time to relax each day. And get plenty of sleep. It is not unusual for pregnant women to need a few extra hours of sleep a night. So when you feel tired, go to bed.

If your doctor says it is safe, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, and stationary cycling, on most days of the week. This will help you feel healthy and energetic. Prenatal yoga can also help keep you fit and relaxed during your pregnancy.

Most importantly, pamper yourself while you are pregnant. Allow others to help you and pay close attention to your body; it will tell you when you have reached your limits.

  • American Pregnancy Association

    http://www.americanpregnancy.org

  • The National Women’s Health Information Center

    http://www.womenshealth.gov

  • The Canadian Women's Health Network

    http://www.cwhn.ca

  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

    http://www.sogc.org

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  • Marcoux S, Berube S, Brisson C, et al. Job strain and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Epidemiology. 2000;11:95.

  • Morning sickness. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/morningsickness.html. Updated July 2011. Accessed February 28, 2013.

  • Pregnancy and travel. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/travel.html . Updated January 2013. Accessed February 28, 2013.

  • Pregnancy complications. WomensHealth.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/pregnancy-complications.cfm#d. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed February 28, 2013.

  • Pregnancy exercise guidelines. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/exerciseguidelines.html. Updated January 2013. Accessed February 28, 2013.

  • Work and pregnancy. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.lpch.org/DiseaseHealthInfo/HealthLibrary/pregnant/work.html. Accessed February 28, 2013.