6. Working during Pregnancy

Today, many women work outside the home, and many continue to work during pregnancy. Most pregnant women can work until they deliver, if they choose.

In the United States, millions of babies are born to women who have been employed at some time during pregnancy. These women often have concerns about safety at work. It’s common for women and their employers to have questions.

Is it safe to work while I’m pregnant?

Can I work my entire pregnancy?

Am I in danger of harming my baby if I work?

You may feel anxious when you have to tell your boss you’re pregnant, but it’s something you must do. It’s better if he or she hears it from you, not someone else.

Find out your company’s maternity leave policy and what benefits it provides to pregnant women and new mothers. Be sure to document everything as you progress through pregnancy.

Legislation That May Affect You. The U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits job discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth. It states pregnancy and related conditions should be treated the same as any other disability or medical condition. A healthcare provider may be asked to certify a pregnant woman can work without endangering herself or her baby.

You may experience a pregnancy-related disability. It can come from the pregnancy itself, complications of pregnancy or a job situation, such as standing for a long time or exposure to various substances.

If you have worked for your present employer for at least 1 year, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may apply to you. The law allows a new parent (mom or dad) to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period for the birth of a baby. If you’re covered, you’re entitled to the same or equal job after you return to work.

To be eligible, you must work at your job for at least 1250 hours a year (about 60% of a normal 40-hour work week). This act applies only to companies that employ 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius. States may allow an employer to deny job restoration to employees in the top 10% compensation bracket. If both parents work for the same employer, only a total of 12 weeks off between them is allowed.

Any time taken off before the birth of a baby is counted toward the 12 weeks a person is entitled to in any given year. (You might have to take time off if you have health or medical problems.) Leave may be taken intermittently or all at the same time.

Dad Tip

Did you know that exercise is important for a pregnant woman? If there are no complications to forbid it, nearly all pregnant women are advised to exercise at least 5 times a week. Ask the healthcare provider if there’s some exercise you can do together on a regular basis, such as walking, swimming or playing golf or tennis. It can help you get in shape, too.

If you work for a small company, fewer than 15 people, you aren’t covered by the FMLA or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. You’ll probably want to find out what your company’s policy is regarding pregnancy leave well in advance of your due date. Check out your state laws and any other local laws that apply to you to determine what kind of leave you can take.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA; pronounced hip-ah) may also apply to you. This law protects most women who change health plans or enroll in a new plan after they become pregnant. The law states that if you change jobs and insurance plans during pregnancy, you can’t be denied insurance coverage if you had insurance in your former job. And your baby can’t be denied coverage if you sign him or her up within 30 days of birth.

State or Provincial Laws and Parental Leave. About half the states in the United States have passed state legislation that deals with parental leave. Some states provide disability insurance if you have to leave work because of pregnancy or birth. If you’re self-employed, you aren’t qualified to receive state disability payments. You may want to consider a private disability policy to cover you during the time your healthcare provider says you can’t work. The glitch here is the policy must be in place before you become pregnant.

In Canada, unpaid parental leave is available. The length of time you may take off from work varies from province to province.

State laws about parental leave differ, so check with your state labor office or consult the personnel director in your company’s human resources department. A summary of state laws on family leave is also available from:

Women’s Bureau

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue NW

Room S-3311

Washington, DC 20210

In Canada, contact the Human Resources office for information, or call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218.

You may be wondering about taking some medicine you normally use now that you’re pregnant. Zicam is an over-the-counter product to help lessen cold symptoms. Amitiza is a prescription medication taken for constipation. Ambien and Rozerem are medications to help you sleep. If you’re considering using any of these medications, check first with your healthcare provider, who will determine whether you should use it.

Some Risks If You Work during Pregnancy. It can be hard to know the exact risk of a particular job. In most cases, we don’t have enough information to know about everything that can harm a developing baby.

The goal is to minimize the risk to mom and baby while still allowing a woman to work. A normal woman with a normal job should be able to work throughout her pregnancy. However, she may need to change some things about her job. If your job involves lifting, climbing, carrying or standing for a long time, you may need to make some changes. Early in pregnancy, you may feel dizzy, tired or nauseous, which might increase your chance of injury. Extra weight and a large tummy may affect your balance and increase your chance of falling in late pregnancy.

You probably know caffeine is found in lots of foods and beverages. But did you know it’s now added to some foods? We found it added to some potato chips, candy and cereal. Be sure to read labels because caffeine must be listed as an ingredient; however, the amount may not be listed.

If you’re exposed to any hazardous substances, you will want to make changes. You may be exposed to pesticides, harmful chemicals, cleaning solvents or heavy metals, such as lead, if you are employed in a factory, at a dry cleaners, in the printing trade, in an arts-and-crafts business, in the electronics industry or on a farm. Healthcare workers, teachers or child-care providers may be exposed to harmful viruses.

If you have any type of health problem, your healthcare provider may want you to limit activities on and off the job. He or she may also certify you have a pregnancy-related disability. This means you have a health problem caused by your pregnancy that keeps you from doing your normal duties.

Work with your healthcare provider and your employer. If problems arise, such as premature labor or bleeding, listen to your healthcare provider. If bed rest at home is suggested, follow that advice. As your pregnancy progresses, you may have to work fewer hours or do lighter work. Be flexible. It doesn’t help you or your baby if you wear yourself out and make things worse.

Take Care of Yourself. If you work, be smart! Don’t participate in anything that is dangerous for you or baby. Don’t stand for long periods. Don’t wear clothes that are tight around the waist, especially if you sit most of the day.

Sit up straight at your desk. Place a low footstool on the floor to rest your feet on. Rest at breaks and during lunch. Get up and walk a little every 30 minutes. Going to the bathroom may be a good reason to get up and move around.

Drink lots of water. Bring a healthy lunch and snack foods to help you keep tabs on your calorie intake. Fast foods can be loaded with empty calories.

Try to keep stress to a minimum. Don’t take on new projects or those that take a lot of time and attention.

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