Working when you're pregnant - our top tips
These days there are plenty of laws to make things easier for women who are pregnant at work. However, whilst law protects us on paper, the reality of our employment situation and the physical demands of daily work can take their toll. Here are a few tips on how to make pregnancy a pleasure – or at least a little more pleasant! – whilst you’re still at work.
Ten Tips for Working When You’re Pregnant
Everyone’s work situation is different, just as each body's reaction to pregnancy is different, but hopefully amongst our tips you’ll find something which improves your experience of working while you’re expecting your baby.
1. Overcoming morning sickness In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, morning sickness can hit the hardest. Although, even for the worst sufferers, this feeling of nausea (whether accompanied by vomiting or not) is usually completely gone by 16 weeks, it’s in those first weeks of pregnancy that you’re usually trying to be discreet about your pregnancy with your colleagues and employers!
Small snacks and scents can really help but beware, one woman’s relief is another woman’s poison – ginger biscuits either go down really well or come back up too quickly, for example! – so try small amounts of different things before you find what suits you.
Sadly, in some cases, this sickness leaves you so ill that you can’t avoid telling someone at work about your situation because you have to take time off. If this is the case, you can still ask the person at your office (either your direct boss or the personal/HR manager) to be discreet and not broadcast why you are off. Click here for more about hyperemesis gravida which is an extreme pregnancy sickness condition.
2. Be a smart commuter Of course it’s not always easy to change your route to work unless you live in a town or city where there are multiple routes to take, but if you’re always stuck on a busy train with no seat, once you are pregnant (and long before you stand a chance of anyone giving up their seat for your noticeable bump!) you should think about adjusting your own timetable and/or route to work in order to grab yourself more breathing space on that unavoidable commute. Be creative – would the bus instead of the train add 10 minutes but give you a chance to sit down with a magazine? Could you maybe start half an hour later and leave half an hour later without it being too noticeable or affecting your job?
Bear in mind that, once your condition is known to your employer, you can ask for a reasonable adjustment to your timings if it’s doable within your job. In which case you may find shifting your hours a little earlier or later will help, depending on your personal route and means of transport.p>
If you work rigid shifts, is there another way to ease your journey at least once or twice a week by getting a lift perhaps? Or, if the commute home is too busy at normal home time, why not go for a coffee or a juice with a newspaper for half an hour to let the crush ease off?
3. Get sussed Just because there are laws to protect you are work, don’t immediately fear that you WILL get a hard time from your employer. Yes, cases of discrimination hit the headlines, but that is because they are increasingly rare.
Still, it’s good to get yourself sussed on what your rights are in terms of conditions at work, when you have to tell employers about your pregnancy, and how long you can take for check-ups, antenatal tests and maternity leave itself. Check out Pregnancy Protection in the Workplace.
4. Take five to check out your workplace The charity Tommy’s is dedicated to improving the pregnancy health of mothers and babies in the UK. They have some excellent advice on how to improve your surroundings and experience at work when pregnant. You can find out more at www.tommys.org.
5. Make yourself comfortable Although even non-pregnant employees have been made more aware of the importance of the physical demands of where they work in recent years, it doesn’t stop us all slouching or sitting badly, or working within cramped desk and office spaces, when we are so busy we haven’t stopped to check that our bodies are properly supported.
Now that your pregnancy hormones are affecting the way in which your ligaments and muscles support your changing shape, it’s vital that you make sure you have good posture (sitting at a desk, or standing and sitting wherever you work) and that you have good support for your feet.
Make sure you can stretch and get up to move around regularly, but that you have a footrest (whether this is a proper rest or books or a box chosen to suit your level) that will keep your legs comfortable. If you don’t you’ll find that you are more likely to get sciatica, back pain or swollen ankles.
6. Don’t leave food until lunchtime You will feel faint if you don’t eat anything between breakfast and lunch. Pregnancy is NOT a time to diet!
Keeping a supply of handy little snacks by your desk is a good idea.
If you’re going into a long meeting, think about how you can take something discreet to eat with you (or take a loo break to go outside and have a quick snack).
7. Top up your water levels You should always have a bottle of water with you at all times (including on the journey to and from work). This doesn't have to be mineral water but keeping a filled up bottle with you is more handy than occasionally remembering to get a cup of water.
8. Keep moving Don’t sit at your desk for hours at a time. Get up, stretch yourself out, and make a virtue of toilet breaks. Walk the long way round to the loos!
Whilst you shouldn’t expose yourself to small falls by reaching for files on high shelves whilst balancing on a chair – no one should at work anyway, but a pregnancy bump is going to seriously affect your sense of balance! You can make a virtue of having to bend down for things by practising squats and kneeling ready for labour!
Moving around will also freshen your outlook when you come back to your desk.
9. Relax and enjoy! If your work is busy or someone in the office is giving you grief, it’s not always easy to ‘enjoy’ work! However, it’s worth taking a five-minute break to go and chat to someone you get on with, have a laugh, or take a short break away from your desk and perhaps just tune into your bump for that brief time. You’ll find it not only does you good, but it makes you approach your work better when you return, which means your employer benefits too!
Be mindful of your duty to do your own job and don't expect others to do it for you, but just think about those short breaks that we all should give ourselves through the day.
Try a few small exercises – the kind of shoulder, neck, back and leg exercises that can easily be done on a plane, for example. Don’t over stretch, but just move your muscles with small motions to help get things flowing again.
10. Feel confident about your time off work There is no need to stress yourself when you know that an appointment is coming up for which you’ll need to take time away from work.
Keep your employer informed of dates and times when you’ll need to attend checks and scans, and think about how much time you will need or want off for maternity leave. There is no pressure – you don’t need to tell your employer about your maternity leave intentions until well into the pregnancy, but it’s good to feel informed about what your rights are.
You’ll find the facts and useful contacts in our section about your maternity rights.