Many women continue working safely throughout their pregnancy without any problems. Pregnancy causes many changes in your body, so your ability to continue working will depend on your overall health, the health of your baby, and what sort of work you do. Many jobs are safe to continue through pregnancy. Other jobs may be okay at the beginning of pregnancy, but later in pregnancy, some duties may need to be changed or stopped. Some women may need to alter their schedule or hours. If you continue working, the goal will be to stay safe and comfortable.
Most desk and computer jobs are safe during pregnancy. But because of fluid buildup during pregnancy, some women develop carpal tunnel syndrome, which can make keyboard work difficult. As your body and posture change, back, neck and shoulder strain may also become an issue if you sit all day. If you are pregnant and work at a desk or on a computer, these tips may help:
- Take frequent breaks. Get up and walk around to improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Use a pillow or cushion for lower back support.
- Use correct hand and arm positions when using a computer. Use a wrist wrest if you use a keyboard and mouse.
- Use a phone headset to relieve neck and shoulder strain.
- Don’t cross your legs or feet.
Jobs that require standing for long periods can be hard on the pregnant body, causing back and leg pain, especially late in pregnancy. If you have to stand, try these tips:
- Prop one foot on a short stool or box to help relieve back pain.
- Ask if you can sit on a tall stool rather than stand.
- Take frequent breaks. Sit down with your feet up if possible.
- Wear good, comfortable, well-fitted, and low-heeled shoes.
- A maternity belt may help for patients who are on their feet to reduce back pain.
Heavy labor jobs
If you have a job that requires frequent heavy lifting, pulling, pushing, or other physical labor, talk with your doctor about whether it is safe to continue. Pregnancy symptoms, such as dizziness and fatigue, can make some physical jobs dangerous. As your center of gravity changes, your sense of balance may suffer, making you more likely to fall.
If you work with chemicals, radiation, heavy metals, gases or biological agents (virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasites), you may need to take extra precautions during pregnancy. Some hazardous agents can get into your blood and can pass to your baby; others can affect your health or harm your baby directly. Talk with your doctor about any specific concerns you may have, and ask whether you should wear protective clothing while at work. Always follow all safety procedures.
If you work in a very hot or cold environment or are exposed to loud noise, you may need to modify your work tasks to avoid these extremes.
If your job requires travel, try to schedule it during the middle of your pregnancy (between weeks 14 and 28). This is the safest time for travel and a time when early pregnancy symptoms have hopefully waned but you are not yet too uncomfortable. Air travel is not recommended after 36 weeks of pregnancy. When traveling by air, consider these tips:
- Try to book an aisle seat so you can get up and walk around and have easier access to the bathroom.
- Wear your seatbelt below your belly, across the hipbones.
- Eat smaller meals.
- If you are traveling out of the country, make sure you are up to date on the necessary vaccinations. Avoid traveling to areas where there is a risk for malaria.
When traveling by car, limit driving time to no more than 5 or 6 hours with frequent stops to stretch your legs. Always wear your seat belt.
Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about working while you are pregnant.