Dealing with Pregnancy Challenges in the Workplace
Working while pregnant can be challenging. You may feel the pressure to perform flawlessly to prove you are still a productive employee, all the while feeling as if you would like nothing more than a nice comfortable bed and something to make your ever-present nausea go away. Now that you are responsible for the health of your developing baby, you may have to make some changes in the workplace, but that doesn't mean you can't still be successful!
The Challenges of the First & Third Trimester
Undoubtedly, the first trimester presents many challenges for many women. Nausea, fatigue, and anxiety about telling your employer all make the first three months difficult. The good news is that these symptoms tend to subside; your second trimester will be much easier. In fact, many women find the second trimester to be the most enjoyable time of their pregnancy.
If you are suffering with pregnancy symptoms and find that they are interfering with your work performance, evaluate how comfortable you feel sharing your pregnancy with your boss. Have any other co-workers announced a pregnancy while you have worked there? How was the news received? You may find that it is in your best interest to share the news with your boss a little earlier than you anticipated if they are becoming concerned about increasing absences and declining productivity.
The third trimester can also present its own unique challenges. Backaches and swelling reach their peak. Fatigue returns as you are carrying around extra weight and pumping extra blood through your body. You may be experiencing sleepless nights and added anxiety and worry about the upcoming birth of your child.
Despite these challenges, it is possible to create a safer, more comfortable and more productive work environment while you are pregnant. Below you will find some helpful tips to achieve just that!
- Be careful not to over exert yourself. It is very important to schedule breaks during the day. Even a 15-minute catnap at your desk can work wonders. You may even find that you can accomplish more if you allow yourself some time to rest instead of attempting to complete every task with your eyes half shut from exhaustion. Overexerting yourself on a regular basis can also affect the health of your baby and put you at risk for pre-term labor.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will swell throughout your pregnancy and will be the most swollen at the end of the day. Be sure your shoes provide support and are the proper size. In fact, shop for your shoes in the evening, and you'll likely find a pair that can accommodate any swelling that occurs during your workday.
- Put your feet up! As your pregnancy progresses, you will find that your legs and feet will swell more and more. When you are pregnant, your body produces about 50% more blood and body fluids to support the growth of your developing baby. This extra water retention also helps your body expand as your baby grows and requires more room. It even helps prepare your body for birth by preparing your pelvic joint and tissues for delivery. This swelling can be aggravated by daily routines that require long periods of standing, high levels of caffeine or salt, low levels of potassium, and heat. Cutting out salt, drinking plenty of water, taking your prenatal vitamins, wearing support hose, and putting your feet up during the day (especially if you sit for long periods of time) can help decrease this swelling.
- Take bathroom breaks. This may be frustrating during the third trimester when it seems like your little one has taken up permanent residence on top of your bladder, but listening to your body and taking frequent bathroom breaks is the best way to avoid urinary tract infections.
- Eat several small meals throughout the day. Keeping snacks with you during the day instead of eating a large breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a great way to keep your blood sugar stable and will cut down on possible mood swings.
- Keep mouthwash and baby wipes on hand. If you are combating morning sickness and have to make a beeline to the bathroom, you will be so grateful you had the foresight to bring these toiletries to work.
- Try your best to keep stress at a minimum. Stress is an inevitable part of life. We can't always control what happens to us, but we can have some control over how much we let it affect us. Chronic stress isn't good for anyone, but it certainly isn't good for your developing baby. Activities like yoga and meditation can help diffuse stress after work, but there are some helpful steps you can take during the workday. Try you best to manage the stress of your job by either taking some time to reflect on the stressful events before reacting, seeking out support from co-workers, friends, or your boss, or taking a 15-minute “time out”. Going out for a quick walk not only gives you some space to breathe, but it is also great exercise and can release those wonderful endorphins.
- Ask for help. If the demands of your job have just become too much to handle, you may want to consider adjusting your work schedule or asking for a change in your workload or the type of work you are doing. It may be helpful to request this while simultaneously offering suggestions about what work you can safely complete. You may also want to consider telecommuting if possible. Remember that you are protected under both federal and state laws. Pregnancy is actually considered a temporary disability, so your employer cannot discriminate against you and must make efforts to provide a safe work place.
Though you may want to keep up the same pace as before, the health of your baby can be at risk if you ignore certain conditions or risk factors. You may want to consider decreasing your hours or stop working all together if your doctor has informed you that you have any of the following:
- High Blood Pressure
- Risk for Preeclampsia
- History of Miscarriages
- Risk for preterm labor
- If doctors are concerned about the healthy development of your baby
Even after you tell your employer that you are pregnant and you begin to show, your pregnancy can still be private. Inevitably, people will be excited for you, but do not feel obligated to disclose more than you are comfortable with or spend lunch hours answering questions about all things baby. Remember, it is okay to set boundaries with nosy co-workers.
Also, keep in mind that no matter how excited you are, it certainly does not mean that everyone at the office is excited. Pregnancy at the workplace is not always met with enthusiasm. Try your best not to complain or talk about your pregnancy too much. The unfortunate truth is that it may rub people the wrong way and damage some working relationships that may have otherwise been intact.