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Work & Pregnancy

pregnant woman at work on the phone

If you are healthy and have no pregnancy problems, you can likely continue to work without causing harm. Certain types of work and working conditions however may pose concerns during pregnancy. A few small changes can make a difference to your comfort, your health and the health of your baby.

Standing for Long Periods

  • Standing for long periods of time can affect the blood flow to your baby and raise the risk for premature birth.
  • If possible, avoid standing for more than 4 hours at one time and after 30 weeks standing still for more than 30 minutes of every hour.
  • Take short walks throughout the day.
  • Rest once in a while with your feet up.
  • Alternate sitting, standing, walking, etc. when possible.
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
  • Ask for a stool at your work station.
  • Ask your health care provider if support stockings might help with circulation.

Sitting for Long Periods

  • Sitting for long periods of time may cause swelling in your legs and feet, less blood flow to your baby, and muscle strain and tension.
  • Use a cushion to support your back.
  • Use a footstool and change the position of your feet.
  • Rotate sitting and standing tasks.
  • Stand, stretch, or move around when possible.
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing.

Heavy and Tiring Work

Heavy work includes lifting, pushing, pulling, and tiring work includes shift work, working more than 40 hours in a week, long commutes, and high levels of stress. This type of work may increase your chance of having problems during your pregnancy.

  • Avoid heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or carrying.
  • When lifting, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
  • Alternate heavy work with less tiring work.
  • Rest with your feet up, when possible.
  • Consider working fewer hours or options such as leaves or part-time work.
  • Reduce or avoid shift work as much as possible.
  • Get help if you are having a lot of workplace stress.

Physical Hazards

  • Extreme heat, loud noise and radiation (i.e. x-rays) are all physical hazards.
  • Avoid long exposures to hot temperatures, loud noise and whole body vibrations.
  • Protect yourself from the sun and heat.
  • Drink enough fluids.
  • Take safety precautions if working with x-rays.

Chemicals

Chemicals that can cause problems during pregnancy include lead, mercury, pesticides, cleaning products and solvents. Chemicals can enter your body when you breathe, eat or drink, or through your skin.

  • Read the Material Safety Data Sheet of any chemical you are working with to learn about the risks and precautions.
  • Follow safety guidelines – use recommended safety equipment.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • Suggest safer products to your employer.

Infections

If you work with young children and pets or in a health care setting you may be exposed to infections such as chickenpox, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, listeria and hepatitis. Infections may cause birth defects, miscarriage and other problems.

  • Avoid contact with people who are infectious, when possible.
  • Wear special protection (gloves, mask etc.) as recommended.
  • Wash your hands often and keep them away from your face.

More Ways to Keep Healthy at Work

  • Bring your own lunch or make healthier choices at work.
  • Keep healthy snacks handy.
  • Drink enough fluids. Limit drinks with caffeine such as coffee or tea.
  • Avoid smoking areas.
  • Take a walk on your breaks.
  • Rest and relax when you can.

Talk to your health care provider about the type of work you do. If concerns are raised, speak with your employer about how you can change the workplace or your day-to-day duties so you can reduce health risks and continue to work. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code and have the right to be accommodated. Your health care provider can support your request. You can also check workplace safety guidelines, speak with your company’s occupational health and safety officer if they have one,  change jobs or stop working.

Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Resources

Ontario Human Rights Commission (Pregnancy and Breastfeeding)
Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits (Government of Canada)

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