women

Now You're Pregnant : What Do I Tell My Boss? Your rights and benefits (part 2) - Managing outside home Your life at work

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Managing outside home Your life at work

Women currently comprise 46 percent of the 137 million workers in the US. The need to contribute to the family and to the community as well as financial concerns often require that pregnant women work outside the home. In addition, women need to keep skills current and continue professional lives. They may be saving up leave time for those important weeks and months following the birth of their baby. Pregnancy can be an extremely healthy period of your life since you are keenly aware of your body's need for additional sleep, a quality diet, and a change in lifestyle.

Pregnancy in the workplace—when to tell, who to tell, and how

Some women prefer to wait until the second trimester to tell all of their colleagues but this is a personal decision and depends upon many factors. If your employer requires a lot of lead time to arrange for coverage of your responsibilities, it may make sense to inform your supervisor early in the pregnancy. Some mothers prefer to wait until the risk of miscarriage is low before announcing the news at work or even to their friends. However, if something should happen, you will need the support of good people to help you at work and to provide you with support at home. Your instincts and experience will help you make this decision.

Dealing with nausea at the office—how to manage

Try every trick to relieve the nausea. Often, getting something into your stomach (sweetened rice, soda, graham crackers, ginger tea, warm milk, or herbal tea) is very helpful in stabilizing your stomach before you begin to move around. Delay teeth brushing and avoid rushing too much after rising. If vomiting is imminent, try putting pressure on an acupressure point at the inside of your arm just up from your wrist. You can feel the spot 3 fingerbreadths above the wrist crease, between two tendons. Press down firmly and massage this spot with your thumb. Continue for 5 minutes. If no self-help techniques seem to work, bring a plastic bag tucked into a baby wipe container for emergencies. Scout out a quick route to the nearest restroom. Deep breathing will often help and keep swallowing.

Your pregnancy and a physically demanding work environment

How you will deal with this depends upon the nature of your work, your general state of health, and that of the pregnancy. There is confirmed evidence that exposure to stress, long hours standing, excessive noise, and certain chemicals represent hazards to your baby. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has guidelines for safety in the workplace during pregnancy. They publish “The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health” that describes the effects of viruses, ethylene glycol, carbon disulfide, lead, radiation, and physical labor. In general, however, if you feel that your health or that of your baby is endangered by your job, you should inform your employer right away. You may be able to receive a transfer to a position that is less hazardous.

Make sure to express the need to take breaks during your workday

It is important for you and your employer to recognize the well-documented negative effects of prolonged standing and stress in the work place. Your midwife or physician can write a note explaining the importance of breaks and a lunch period where you can rest and get your feet up. If your co-workers need to work harder when you take breaks, this might have to be worked out with your employer.

Know your work environment—chemical exposure in pregnancy

Some women are hypersensitive to odors. Volatile chemicals, however, may be hazardous to your health and that of your baby. Exposure to toluene, acetone and Perchloroethylene, a dry-cleaning solvent, can cause kidney, liver, and central nervous system damage, and even miscarriage. Fumes from paint, glue or new carpets may also cause nausea and light-headedness so avoid such areas for a few days. Regardless of how many hours you work or how long you've been employed, you are entitled to safe working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide a workplace free of hazards, while the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires employers to treat pregnancy as they would any other medical condition, with the same disability leave and pay. The PDA also makes it illegal to hire, fire, or refuse to promote a woman because she is pregnant. Your human resources department can provide you with additional information.

Working through

You can work until late in your pregnancy, but it's wise to allow yourself some time off before the birth to have a break and relax.

If you spend much of the day desk-bound, try to get up and move around regularly, even if it's just a walk to the photocopier, to avoid sluggish circulation.

If your job involves standing for long periods of time, you may need to build in regular breaks toward the end of pregnancy or find ways to rest while working.

If you work with substances, make sure your employer has done a risk assessment and that you are aware of anything you should avoid.

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