Mum of three, Anne Reid, explains how if you’re a healthy woman, you should be able to continue working through pregnancy until (almost!) the end of it.
Many women choose to keep their pregnancy a secret until they have passed the first trimester and had their first scan. However, if you work in a potentially hazardous environment, are experiencing severe morning sickness, your work is suffering or you are taking time off work because you feel exhausted then it may be a better idea to let your employer know earlier.
The following suggestions will help to make work more manageable throughout your pregnancy.
Are you sitting comfortably? Long hours at a desk can be tiring as your centre of gravity and weight changes frequently. A lumbar back support cushion can help make you more comfortable when seated for long periods. Try to ensure your chair has armrests and a footrest under your desk will take some of the pressure off your lower back and legs.
Standing for long periods of time puts pressure on both your back and your legs. If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest. Alternate between feet and take regular breaks. Make sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Support tights can help too.
Lifting heavy weights really should be avoided in pregnancy. If you must lift anything, be sure to bend your knees and not your waist. Keep your elbows tucked in and the load close to your body. Be sure not to twist your body when carrying or lifting.
Make lists, delegate, prioritise tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for help. Take the opportunity to resolve issues before they become overwhelming problems. Keep all lines of communication open between you and your colleagues.
Take proper job precautions
There are many working conditions that are deemed hazardous in pregnancy. Those that could increase your risk of complications should be avoided, such as exposure to harmful substances, heavy lifting, loud noise, heavy vibrations from machinery, extreme temperatures, long shifts, extended periods where you are standing. Remember that your balance hifts throughout your pregnancy, which can mean any roles requiring dexterity or agility may be affected.
Keep your strength up and manage fatigue
Your body is working harder than usual during pregnancy and naturally you will feel more tired and fatigued.
1. Eat well. A healthy diet will help you keep your strength up. A deficiency in iron can cause fatigue so make sure your diet is iron rich. Include foods such as red meat, fish, poultry, leafy green vegetables, beans and iron-fortified whole-grain cereals in your diet.
2. Rest your tired eyes. If you work at a computer, take frequent breaks. Walking around, focusing your eyes on a subject in the far distance and drinking some water can all help reinvigorate you.
3. Take it easier at home. Prioritise home duties and again, delegate. If you have other children, make a timetable of age-appropriate chores for them to follow. Your partner should be taking on some of your share of the household duties. If possible, hire a cleaner to keep on top of things and do your grocery shopping online.
4. Exercise can boost your energy levels. Take a short walk after work or join a pregnancy-safe exercise class. Always check with your doctor or midwife before beginning a new exercise routine.
5. Sleep! Aim for eight hours sleep every night. Use extra pillows to support your back and bump to help you sleep as comfortably as possible. You might get more tired than usual, particularly in the first few and last few weeks of pregnancy.
6. Manage your time. Try to use your lunch break to eat and rest, not to do the shopping. If travelling in rush hour is exhausting, ask your employer if you can work slightly different hours for a while.
Coping with nausea
Avoid the work canteen or office kitchen if strong food smells are a nausea trigger for you.
- Snack often. Keep a stash of crackers and other plain foods at work for easy snacking.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Nausea can make you feel worse when you’re dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water at your desk or work area and sip throughout the day.
Feeling stressed isn’t uncommon during pregnancy. Some women find it harder to control their emotions while pregnant, which can exacerbate issues that could ordinarily be managed with their eyes closed a few months previously. It’s not unusual to feel weepier than usual and sometimes, it can help to simply remind yourself that it’s just the hormones causing you to feel wobbly and that really, you’re okay!
Telling your boss, employee rights and maternity leave
According to www.citizensinformation.ie you must give your employer at least four weeks written notice of your intention to take maternity leave and you must also provide your employer with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy. If you intend to take the additional 16 weeks maternity leave, you must provide your employer with at least four weeks written notice. Both of these notices can be given at the same time.
If your baby is born more than four weeks before your due date, you will have fulfilled the notice requirements if you give your employer written notice within 14 days of the birth.
You should apply to the Maternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your baby’s due date. Employers are not obliged to pay women on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit, which is a Department of Social Protection payment, if you have sufficient PRSI contributions.
Go to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information.
Return to work
You must give your employer at least four weeks written notice of your intention to return to work. It is important to comply with these notice requirements, as failure to do so may cause loss of rights.
You must notify your employer as soon as possible if you wish to postpone your maternity leave (but remember, your employer can refuse this application).
More like this:
The dos and don’ts of pregnancy
Eating for two
Tackling tiredness during pregnancy