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Working during Pregnancy

Most women can keep working during pregnancy. How long you can safely keep working depends on your job and your risk for medical problems. In general, you will be able to work until you go into labor if:

  • You are healthy.
  • You have no problems with your pregnancy.
  • Your workplace is safe.

Are some working conditions hazardous?

Some working conditions may be hazardous or cause difficulties at some point during pregnancy, such as:

  • standing for a long time
  • often stooping and bending below knee level
  • climbing ladders or stairs
  • lifting heavy objects or doing heavy physical labor
  • working in a very hot environment
  • being exposed to hazardous chemicals, gas, dust, fumes, radiation, or infectious diseases

You also need to consider how long your commute to work is, the amount of stress you have on the job, and your ability to handle your additional responsibilities at home.

The daily use of computer video displays is not a problem for pregnant women or a risk for miscarriage.

Discuss your job situation with your healthcare provider. Ask your provider what is best for you and your baby. Remember that it is best to discuss possible problems with your healthcare provider before you are pregnant.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about the work you do. Discuss what you can and cannot do on the job and possible problems.
  • Change positions often while you are on the job. If you are sitting, keep your feet up. Get up every 2 hours for a 15-minute break and stretching. If you are standing, take rest breaks and put your feet up or lie down during your breaks.
  • If you stand or walk a lot on the job, it can help to wear support stockings.
  • If you sit a lot on the job, get a chair with good back support and arm rests.
  • Eat often. Choose high-energy foods like yogurt with raisins, or fruit, or cheese and crackers.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color. Keep a water bottle with you.
  • Avoid changing shifts.
  • Do relaxation exercises when you are not working.
  • Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Avoid or limit stressful situations.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of problems so you can judge when you are doing too much.

Can I take sick leave during my pregnancy?

Many women wonder whether they can take sick leave during at least part of their pregnancy. Generally, employers pay sickness benefits to pregnant women only if they cannot keep working because of a strenuous or hazardous job or a pregnancy complication. If a pregnancy is normal and uncomplicated, it is not considered to be an illness. This means you will probably not be eligible for sick leave.

Check with your employer about your benefits. Ask when and how long you can take maternity leave. Depending on the state you live in, you may be eligible for state disability benefits.

What legal protections do I have at my workplace?

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects your right to work during pregnancy. An employer cannot discriminate against you based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pregnancy or related disorders must be considered like any other medical condition. You are entitled to the same employee benefits as other employees with similar abilities or limitations. The PDA protects you against being fired or refused a job or promotion because you are pregnant. However, it does not require your employer to make it easier for you to work. For further information go to http://www.eeoc.gov.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. If needed, certain changes may be made at the workplace so you can keep working safely. For further information go to http://www.osha.gov.
Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN, and RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-18
Last reviewed: 2011-03-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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