Your Pregnancy After 35 : Your Career and Your Pregnancy (part 1) - Work Risks Associated with Pregnancy

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1. Work Precautions during Pregnancy

If you work during pregnancy, keep in mind a few precautions. You will probably have to slow down and to lighten your duties. Expect to take things a little easier at work and at home—you may not be able to do some of the things you do when you aren’t pregnant. Learn to ask for help when you need it.

Heather had a demanding job as a vet; some days she worked 10 hours or more. She came to see me at the end of her sixth month, looking and feeling terrible. I told her what I tell others about work and pregnancy—I wanted her to be able to work, but her pregnancy had to come first. Her emphasis on work could have a negative effect on the health of her growing baby. She wouldn’t last another week the way she was going. We decided she would set some boundaries at work and we devised a plan—8-hour days that would decrease to 4-hour days over the next 3 months. When she came in a month later, Heather reported things were much better at work.

2. Making Changes

Your center of gravity is changing, so you may have to change the way you do certain tasks—lifting, for example. Do most of your lifting with your legs. Bend your knees to lift; don’t bend at the waist. As your abdomen grows larger, don’t lift anything heavier than 20 pounds.

Avoid activities that involve climbing and balance, especially during the third trimester. Talk to your supervisor about eliminating these activities. If you stand all day at your job, you may have to sit down for a period of time.

If you sit most of the time at your job, get up and move around regularly to stimulate circulation. Sit in a chair that offers good support for your back and legs. Don’t slouch or cross your legs while sitting.

3. Work Risks Associated with Pregnancy

If your job includes two or more of the following risks, tell your healthcare provider. He or she may want to monitor your pregnancy more closely. Work-related pregnancy risks include the following:

standing more than 3 hours a day

working on an industrial machine, especially if it vibrates a lot or requires strenuous effort to operate

strenuous physical tasks, such as lifting, pulling, pushing or heavy cleaning

repetitious work, such as an assembly-line job

environmental factors, such as high noise levels or extreme temperatures

long working hours

shift changes

exposure to infectious diseases

exposure to chemicals or toxic substances

Some substances in the workplace can pose a hazard to a developing fetus. If you think you may be exposed to hazardous substances, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Substances may be brought into your home on your work clothes or those of someone else in your family.

4. Working at a Computer

We have no evidence working at a computer can harm a growing baby. However, be aware of how long you sit and the way you sit; keep good circulation in your legs. Get up and walk around frequently. Try to exercise a bit during the day to help keep you feeling tiptop.

Melinda was a cashier at a large department store. Before pregnancy, her legs ached after standing for an 8-hour shift. At her 6-month visit, she was miserable. She had just finished a shift and couldn’t get her shoes off because her feet were so swollen. She needed to make some major changes. She did. Melinda changed to a 6-hour shift, with two breaks, during which she rested on her side on a couch for 30 minutes. She sat on a stool while she worked. Running shoes were more comfortable, and maternity support hose also helped a lot. Her boss was happy to work with her to make the changes possible.

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