Are you concerned that your job is putting your pregnancy at risk? Working may not be an option, especially if you’re the main income provider for your family. However, most women can safely continue to work while pregnant with a few precautions. Of course, there might be days where morning sickness makes working unpleasant. Still, many women adapt and keep working. On the other hand, don’t put your health or your baby’s health at risk. Here are some tips on work safety while pregnant.
1 – Avoid Exposure to Toxins
If you work a desk job in a quiet, clean office, working poses few challenges. However, if you’re a chemist in a lab or work in an environment that exposes you to toxic chemicals or heavy metals, your job may be a hazard. If you’re unsure, ask your employer and request a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet. By law, your employer must make you aware of any hazardous chemicals you’re exposed to. If you have concerns, discuss them with your employer and see if you can be reassigned to a safer area temporarily.
If you work in the healthcare field, you could be exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Occupations that potentially pose a risk include x-ray technician, dental hygienist, or radiologist. These are jobs where you’re around radiation. If you wear appropriate protection, the risk is low. However, if you do procedures that involve high levels of radiation, such as therapeutic radiation, the risk is higher. Other sources of exposure that could be problematic for a baby are cancer chemotherapy medications and contact with gaseous anesthetic agents.
Radiation is an obvious risk, but some studies also show that exposure to anesthesia gasses is linked with a slightly higher risk of spontaneous abortion. If you work with anesthetic agents or chemotherapy drugs, protect yourself against exposure. Wear an appropriate mask and make sure the equipment you’re using is well maintained and in good working order.
Don’t forget that the health care and child care field expose you to an increased risk of infection. Be sure to take precautions like frequent hand washing or even wearing a mask. Other fields where you may be exposed to toxins include the dry cleaning industry, printing industry, house cleaning work, agricultural work, painting, photography, and more.
2 – Avoid Prolonged Standing and Heavy Lifting
After a certain point, usually during the late 2nd trimester, standing for prolonged periods of time or lifting heavy objects (over 25 pounds) isn’t advisable. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that strenuous or physically demanding work is linked with a greater risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia. Talk to your doctor and ask how long it’s safe for you to continue to lift and stand all day. Then, discuss your concerns with the supervisor and see if they can reassign you to a desk job until after you’ve delivered.
3 – Listen to Your Doctor
If you have a high-risk pregnancy or other medical condition that makes working risky, your doctor may recommend reducing your hours or not working at all. Heed their advice. Make sure your doctor understands the type of work you do and what your job entails. If you develop high blood pressure, a high blood sugar during pregnancy or if you’re pregnant with multiples, it may also limit your ability to work. Most importantly, know what you’re exposed to on the job and whether it could be harmful to your baby.
MotherRisk.org. “Occupational exposure to inhaled anesthetic: Is it a concern for pregnant women?”
Obstetrics & Gynecology pp 623-635: 95, 2000.