Pregnant at work: How to stay healthy and safe in the office

Pregnant at work: How to stay healthy and safe in the office

21 May 2013


Pregnancy brings all sorts of life, emotional and health changes. It’s an incredibly exciting time in a woman’s life – but also a huge change in every aspect. Most women can keep working throughout their pregnancy and some even choose to work until a day or two before the birth. But for every woman it’s important to make sure you plan ahead, inform the relevant people, and ensure that you’re working in a safe environment.

Safety first
You may want to keep your pregnancy private in the early stages but it’s important to advise your boss or the human resources department to ensure that your work environment is safe. Carole Brown, national president of The Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA), recommends doing so as early as possible. “This gives colleagues and employers time to plan – plus you will hopefully get a lot of support along the way,” she says.

Whether your role involves sitting at a desk, driving, working with chemicals or heavy lifting, it’s vital to assess the environment, and change it if needed. As Julie Cottle, founder of Natural Transition, a naturopath and massage therapist specialising in pregnancy, post natal and baby care says: “Your workplace will assess your needs and may be able to provide you with a more pregnancy-friendly work environment for the duration of your pregnancy.”

For Yasmina Ilic-Miloradovic, a building manager who’s currently pregnant with her second child, this meant changing some of her role requirements. “My job involves climbing ladders, getting on the roof and changing globes, so I have a colleague do it now,” she explains. “And when I was pregnant with my first child I always let the security guards know when I was working onsite alone – as a safety precaution in case something had happened.”

Accept help
If you tell a friend at work about the pregnancy early on you also have a confidant – and someone who can keep an eye out for you. Many women experience morning sickness and your colleague can simply make sure you are OK. As you get further along in your pregnancy, coworkers may offer to help more and more – say yes and consider yourself lucky to be working in a supportive working environment.

Eat well and often
You’ll need to increase your energy requirements, as well as nutrients such as iron, folate, iodine, zinc and vitamin C. Natasha Murray, an accredited practising dietician and spokesperson for Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) says that a pregnancy multi-vitamin is sufficient for most women. She stresses that eating regularly is pivotal. “You might need to schedule in lunch breaks, as well as morning and afternoon tea. I’d recommend taking your own lunch and snacks to work, so that if you’re having a hungry day you’ve got nutritious food close at hand.”

Vanessa Thorburn, who has just finished up working in the workers compensation field at 37 weeks says, “I never took lunch breaks before but I made a point of eating well during my pregnancy”. Murray also urges pregnant women to not be afraid of breaking more often than usual to eat. “If you need to excuse yourself from a meeting to eat, do it,” she says. “If people know that you’re pregnant they are usually very accommodating.”

Move and stretch
If you sit at a desk all day – get up and move. “Take five minutes out of every hour to get up, even if it’s just to walk to the bathroom. Moving helps reduce the risk of varicose veins and swelling in the feet and ankles,” explains Cottle. “And remember to stretch! Stretching is great for lessening muscle soreness and can be done at your desk with minimal interruption to work time.”

If you stand all day, sit down and raise your feet where possible. Cottle suggests talking to your boss to see if your job requirements can be modified to include more sitting. “Working as a dietitian, I stand for most of the day at the nurses stations and walking became difficult towards the end of my pregnancy,” new mum Annie Tow remembers. “I sat down more often throughout my pregnancy to write medical notes.”

Relax and minimise stress
Pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster and some women find it challenging to maintain equilibrium. Try to eliminate stress, but if you can’t get away from it then manage it through deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation – or simply by going for a walk. Cottle reminds expectant mums to “recognise that growing a new human puts a lot of strain on your body and emotions. Don’t expect too much of yourself. If you have sick leave and you need a day off because you’re feeling unwell or overly stressed – take it.”

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