Discovering that you’re pregnant is one of those unforgettable moments in life. Whether you’ve been trying for a while, or it’s happened by chance, planned or unplanned, the first baby or not, you know it’s going to be a full-time job.
Most women continue to work right through pregnancy when they make efforts to balance normal discomforts with the job requirements. And when you already work full-time, juggling the “two you’s” can be a challenge. It certainly won’t be easy, but with the right planning and advice, you can make it all happen exactly the way you want it to.
Pregnancy is a normal human condition, and our bodies are much more resilient and stronger than we imagine. So enjoy your career for as long as you want while ensuring that you and your baby stay well and safe.
Employers understand the need for qualified staffing, so they are more inclined to support a good team member. No company likes to lose a good worker, even if it means that the person has to take maternity leave.
Much depends on the kind of job you do. Some jobs can be tough in pregnancy if you work where you need to:
- Stand for long hours
- Do heavy lifting
- Bend repeatedly from the waist
- Lift heavy objects up and above your head level
- Move people (as in care-giving)
- Travel a lot
- Work in a high-stress profession
Typically, these jobs are done by:
- Healthcare workers
- Construction crew
- Flight attendants
- Farm, livestock, and agriculture
- Teachers and daycare staff
- Law enforcement, police, defense services
It’s important to evaluate personally and medically whether the work you do poses any risk to you or the growing fetus. Studies conducted in the Netherlands show that standing for long hours can affect the growth of the fetus.
However, it’s also a fact that working women have relatively fewer pregnancy-related complications than stay-at-home women. But again, this also depends on how much they like their jobs and whether they experience high-stress levels at work and home.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
Generations of women have fought hard and long for employment under equal opportunities. Reading the history of women’s rights in the workplace shows how far we have come. In 1908 a Supreme Court judgment in the US advised that working hours of pregnant women (and their salary) must be limited in the interest of creating healthy offspring and preserving the health and vigor of the race. In 1964, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, such “protections” and discrimination were removed. Many landmark judgments have created an environment where a woman can continue to raise a family and enjoy a fulfilling career at the same time.
You deserve to be treated well by your employer and co-workers, and this is your legal and moral right. Most working women dislike using their femininity and the “female” condition to garner sympathy or extra benefits. However, you must know all your rights and responsibilities. Inform your boss first and then all those who need to know, early on, about your pregnancy. Keep your tone positive without revealing unnecessary personal or medical details.
You can avail all benefits open to other employees who have medical conditions or disabilities.
Be aware of your firm’s maternity policies. If your company employs more than 15 people, it must comply with certain workers’ rights. You cannot be fired, discriminated against, forced to take long leave, denied promotions or the standard benefits whether you’re married or not.
Your spouse is entitled to insurance coverage if your policy offers it. You can take a part of your maternity leave before the baby is born, and your job is protected for 12 weeks, whether before or after the birth.
Common Issues During Pregnancy
Morning Sickness: This is the term usually used to describe nausea and vomiting though it can strike at any time during the day.
Dealing With It: You are the best judge of what triggers it, so avoid the foods/beverages/smells that set off queasiness. Find the foods that don’t make you feel nauseous, eat smaller meals, and snack on healthy options.
Tiredness: As your body adjusts to the greater demands put on it and prepares for the major event ahead, you will feel fatigued more often. Your office schedule may be strenuous and stressful, but make sure you don’t exhaust yourself. Stay well hydrated, even if it means additional washroom trips.
Dealing With It:
- Take mini-breaks where you can rest both physically and mentally.
- Sip water often, and get plenty of sleep.
- Cut out unnecessary activities and rework your fitness routine. Eat protein-rich foods and talk to your doctor about iron or vitamin supplements if they’re required.
- Short walks outdoors help to boost oxygen levels for you and your baby.
Discomfort: As the pregnancy advances, you may gain weight and find it difficult to stand/sit for extended periods. Fluid build-up in the feet can make it uncomfortable too. Apart from physical discomfort, you may experience higher levels of stress and mood swings. Keep things organized at home and delegate tasks as much as possible at work.
Dealing With It:
- Move around, do gentle chair yoga, practice relaxation techniques.
- Carry your favorite cushion to work, request an ergonomic chair, alternate between sitting and standing during lengthy presentations.
- Talk to supportive family, friends, and co-workers.
- Eliminate toxic people, stressful TV news, movies, and shows.
Smart Tips and Handy Hints
Doctor’s appointments: Don’t miss doctor’s appointments for any reason. These are important. If you have a hectic schedule, try and squeeze them in during your lunch hour or before/after work. If your clinic is located close to your place of work/home, you can use the waiting time to answer emails, make phone calls, etc.
Prepare: Keeping your team informed about how you feel can help ease a lot of stress at work. Give them the confidence that you will do your best to pull your weight and carry your responsibilities. You also need to prepare yourself for good and bad days. Sometimes you may feel very positive and filled with energy, so get the maximum work done on such days. You may feel dull and lethargic on other days, so give yourself an easier workload and let your co-workers know that you need some.
Provide extra time: Avoid tight timelines because the doctor may require you to take tests or conduct extra investigations. This can make you feel stressed and nauseous. Give yourself at least an extra half an hour to not feel stressed with back-to-back meetings and presentations. Stay safe while commuting and avoid traveling by public transport during peak hours.
Plan: Spend time creating a comfortable plan for when you won’t be around. Fix an exact date when you plan to stop working, and don’t leave things in the air. This helps your boss and co-workers adjust their workflow around this date. It’s also a good idea to give tentative dates for your return.
Exiting: Well, before you take your maternity leave, work out a suitable plan with your team. Hand over the responsibilities to the right people so that you aren’t bothered at home by mails or calls unless it’s a real emergency. Discuss ongoing projects with your team and how the gap can be filled in.
Return to Work Plans: Do you plan to return to work full-time, or would you need a more flexible schedule after the birth? Discuss post-delivery plans honestly with your boss and get their buy-in on your plans. This helps to make for a smoother transition.