Working during pregnancy: Do's and don'ts
Medically reviewed on April 15, 2017
Most women can continue working during pregnancy. Being pregnant, however, might present challenges at the workplace. To stay healthy and productive on the job, understand how to alleviate common pregnancy discomforts — and know when a work task might jeopardize your pregnancy.
Easing nausea and vomiting
It's called "morning" sickness, but pregnancy queasiness can hit at any time. To ease nausea at work:
- Avoid nausea triggers. That double latte you craved every morning before pregnancy or the smell of foods reheated in the break room microwave might now make your stomach flip-flop. Steer clear of anything that triggers nausea.
- Snack often. Crackers and other bland foods can be lifesavers when you feel nauseated. Keep a stash at work for easy snacking. Ginger ale or ginger tea might help, too.
You might feel tired as your body works overtime to support your pregnancy — and resting during the workday can be tough. It might help to:
- Eat foods rich in iron and protein. Fatigue can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia, but adjusting your diet can help. Choose foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood, leafy green vegetables, iron-fortified whole-grain cereal and beans.
- Take short, frequent breaks. Getting up and moving around for a few minutes can reinvigorate you. Spending a few minutes with the lights off, your eyes closed and your feet up also can help you recharge.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Keep a water bottle at your desk or in your work area and sip throughout the day.
- Cut back on activities. Scaling back can help you get more rest when your workday ends. Consider doing your shopping online or hiring someone to clean the house or take care of the yard.
- Keep up your fitness routine. Although exercise might be the last thing on your mind at the end of a long day, physical activity can help boost your energy level — especially if you sit at a desk all day. Take a walk after work or join a prenatal fitness class, as long as your health care provider says it's OK.
- Go to bed early. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep every night. Resting on your left side will maximize blood flow to your baby and ease swelling. For added comfort, place pillows between your legs and under your belly.
As your pregnancy progresses, everyday activities such as sitting and standing can become uncomfortable. Remember those short, frequent breaks to combat fatigue? Moving around every few hours also can ease muscle tension and help prevent fluid buildup in your legs and feet. Try these other strategies, too:
- Sitting. Using an adjustable chair with good lower back support can make long hours of sitting much easier — especially as your weight and posture change. If your chair isn't adjustable, use a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support for your back. Elevate your legs to decrease swelling.
- Standing. If you must stand for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest, low stool or box. Switch feet every so often and take frequent breaks. Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Consider wearing support or compression hose, too.
- Bending and lifting. Even when you're lifting something light, proper form can spare your back. Bend at your knees, not your waist. Keep the load close to your body, lifting with your legs — not your back. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
To lift correctly, bend at your knees — not at your waist. Keep your back as straight as possible. Use your leg muscles to stand, keeping the object close to your body.
Keeping stress under control
Stress on the job can sap the energy you need to care for yourself and your baby. To minimize workplace stress:
- Take control. Make daily to-do lists and prioritize your tasks. Consider what you can delegate to someone else — or eliminate.
- Talk it out. Share frustrations with a supportive co-worker, friend or loved one.
- Relax. Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing slowly or imagining yourself in a calm place. Try a prenatal yoga class, as long as your health care provider says it's OK.
Taking proper job precautions
Certain working conditions might increase your risk of complications during pregnancy — especially if you're at high risk of preterm labor — including:
- Exposure to harmful substances
- Prolonged standing
- Heavy lifting, climbing or carrying
- Excessive noise
- Heavy vibrations, such as from large machines
- Extreme temperatures
If you're concerned about any of these issues, mention it to your health care provider. Together you can decide if you need to take special precautions or modify your work duties during your pregnancy.