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Working while pregnant

Article from the September 2012 issue of Bona Magazine.

Morning sickness, aches and cravings are a job on their own. How do you juggle pregnancy with your day job as well?
When should I stop working?

Many women are happy working up until their due date. But some experts say you shouldn't work beyond week 32. Your heart, lungs and other vital organs have to work harder from this point, which will put added pressure on your spine, joints and muscles. If you're still keen to work, take plenty of breaks and always put yours and your baby's health first.Many women are happy working up until their due date. But some experts say you shouldn’t work beyond week 32. Your heart, lungs and other vital organs have to work harder from this point, which will put added pressure on your spine, joints and muscles. If you’re still keen to work, take plenty of breaks and always put yours and your baby’s health first.

How do I break the news?

Clinical social worker, Melissa de Waard of De Waard and Associates says it’s best to discuss your pregnancy with your direct line manager. If you’re not comfortable or are afraid of their response (perhaps because you might be new to the company) then include an HR manager in the meeting.

It’s important to disclose your pregnancy to management so that they know you are going through some changes. This also gives you plenty of time to plan for your maternity leave. There is no reason to feel fearful as pregnancy should be something that is celebrated and not a reason for you to be discriminated against.

Some women prefer to wait for the first three months before announcing their happy news but the first trimester can be quite overwhelming especially if it’s your first pregnancy, so it’s sometimes best to disclose it so that management can be supportive.

When you are pregnant, slow down, work regular normal hours, stop to take lunch, and do not work overtime or on weekends. Also leave work issues at work when you leave the workplace!

What about work stress?

There is a perception these days that women can work just as hard when pregnant and carry on working up until the last day before giving birth. Although this may work for some women, we are not super human. Towards the end, your body feels heavier and needs rest. Being a working woman doesn’t change the fact that the pregnancy period should be nine months of mentally preparing and emotionally making space for the little one that is going to arrive.

This is a gradual process and will not just happen when the baby is placed in your arms. Women who take time out towards the end to think of motherhood, the huge changes that come with it and prepare for baby’s arrival will have less chances of post natal depression once baby is born. So in a nutshell – slow down, work regular normal hours, stop to take lunch break, and do not work overtime or on weekends. Also, leave work issues at work when you leave the workplace!

Managing your diet while at work

Nathalie Mat, of MME Dietitians, says that when you are pregnant you only need to gain one-to-two kilos in the first trimester so food intake does not need to increase much.

In the second trimester, your body needs 1 500 kj more energy per day. While this is the same amount of energy as a chocolate bar – chocolate certainly doesn’t make a nutritious snack or meet your increased requirements for protein and calcium.

Skip the cafeteria or corner cafe food and rather pack a healthy lunch box. Try well-cooked eggs to provide a protein boost (these are also high in choline which is needed for baby’s growth and development.) To meet your extra protein requirements add one to two servings of low fat dairy such as low-fat yoghurt or low fat milk to your packed lunch and also choose lean proteins such as beans or chicken without the skin.

Constipation is common in the third trimester. Make sure you have wholegrain starches for a main meal like lunch (think brown rice, wholewheat pasta, corn/mielies, barley etc.) Dried fruit not only lasts inside your lunchbox (or handbag if you’re running around) but also adds a fibre boost. You should watch portion sizes as dried fruit contains a lot of energy. Also make sure that as you increase your fibre intake, you increase your water intake too. Being dehydrated may worsen constipation.

Coping with back pain at work while pregnant

Sit with a good posture. We generally tend to slouch at our desks at work. During pregnancy, this adds unnecessary pressure to your lower back. Consider putting a small pillow on your back to support it. Also sit right back in your chair to avoid slouching. You may even consider putting a small stool under your feet to raise them slightly.Another fact to deal with during your pregnancy is back pain. Chiropractor Dr Lisa Dickerson says back pain during pregnancy is a common complaint, and rightly so. Your body is going through a lot of changes, you’re gaining weight, you’re releasing hormones responsible for relaxing your muscles and ligaments and you’ve changed the way you walk in order to adjust to this.

Being at work during this time can make things even more difficult. Dickerson gives three tips in order to reduce back pain at work:

Sit with a good posture. We generally tend to slouch at our desks at work. During pregnancy, this adds unnecessary pressure to your lower back. Consider putting a small pillow on your back to support it. Also sit right back in your chair to avoid slouching. You may even consider putting a small stool under your feet to raise them slightly.

Wear the right shoes.

High heels change your posture, shorten your calf muscles and put pressure on your back and knees. The ideal heel height for a pregnant woman is 3cm, nothing more. However flip-flops and pumps can be equally damaging, since they don’t provide proper arch or heel support.

Avoid lifting heavy objects at work. If your job consists of moving and lifting heavy objects, try and get a colleague to help you. If this is not possible, keep a straight back while lifting. Use your legs to squat down to pick up the object. Avoid bending your back forward in order to pick things up.

Don’t forget!

Make sure you know your employer’s maternity leave policy (how long is it, is it paid or unpaid?) and make the necessary plans to claim from UIF in good time to avoid disappointment.

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