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Working During Pregnancy

How long can I continue working?

Women continue to work during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. The money earned, health insurance benefits, they don't want to interrupt their careers, they want to stay busy, and they enjoy their work.

In normal pregnancy, there are few restrictions concerning work. If you are not at risk for complications, you can probably continue to work up to your delivery date.

A pregnant woman will need to make the decision about working and for how long based upon her needs, the needs of her family, her health, they type of work being performed and the input from her doctor.

The American Medical Association recommends the following for working pregnant women:

  • Take a break every few hours
  • Take a longer meal break every 4 hrs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids while on the job
  • Vary work positions continuously, from sitting to standing to walking.
  • Minimize heavy lifting and bending

Are some working conditions hazardous?

Some work involves being around hazardous substances. Always discuss these possibilities with Dr. Hardy or the Nurse Practitioner at your prenatal visits. If your job exposes you to hazardous chemicals, gas, dust, fumes, radiation, or infectious diseases, handling blood, urine or bodily fluids, you should be cautious. You may need to transfer to a less hazardous work area for the duration of the pregnancy.

Does using a computer all day cause any problems with my pregnancy?

No link has yet been found between exposure to the electromagnetic field of the computer screen and any risks in pregnancy. You should however, sit at an arm's length away from the front of the computer screen. Take frequent work breaks, use detachable keyboards and adjustable chairs and tables to help minimize physical discomfort. You can also use a non-reflective glass over top of the computer screen to help with the strain on your eyes.

How is my pregnancy effected by physical labor?

The physical requirements of work will help determine how long you can perform your job. Some factors that will help determine your risks are:

  • how physically demanding the job is
  • whether or not the pregnancy is interfering with accomplishing the work
  • are any modifications that can be made to accommodate the physical demands of the rest of the pregnancy

You should talk to Dr. Hardy or the Nurse Practitioner if your work involves:

  • heavy lifting, pulling or pushing
  • climbing (stairs, poles or ladders)
  • bending below the waist
  • shift changes
  • an added risk of accidents or falls

Can standing for long periods of time effect my pregnancy?

For pregnant women who stand for long periods, there are no set times for discontinuing work. There are some concerns about the effect of standing for long periods of time during the last months of pregnancy. In some cases, a woman may be permitted to work until delivery, while others are advised to quit anywhere from the 24th to the 32nd week of pregnancy.

If you need to stand for long periods of time, keep one foot on a low stool with your knee bent. This takes some of the pressure off the back. Shift your weight periodically. Wear firm supportive shoes such as walking tennis shoes. Avoid wearing heels or flats. Wear support hose.

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 are unable to continue work 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 you can take maternity leave.

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 and reinstatement privileges as other workers 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.

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 to allow you to continue your employment safely. Some companies have adopted a "fetus protection policy." Such policies prohibit female employees of childbearing age from doing a job that exposes them to toxic substances at levels considered unsafe for the baby.