Dos and don’ts for women working during pregnancy

Women might face some challenges at the workplace during pregnancy. Hence, here are some do’s and don’ts to stay healthy and productive on the job, alleviate common pregnancy discomforts and know when a work task might start to affect your pregnancy.

During pregnancy, a woman’s uterus expands and weakens the abdominal muscles and the increased weight in the belly area, as the child grows in the womb, causes bending of the lower spine backward which puts strain on the woman’s back which is why women experience low back ache during pregnancy and even after delivery or postpartum. More than 60 percent of women reportedly have lower back pain during pregnancy due to the lordotic compensatory posture that one develops due to the growing weight in the belly area and/or the hormonal changes.

Hormonal and biological changes during pregnancy and childbirth can take a toll on a woman’s body and they can take a few months to fully recover from them but if the low back ache during pregnancy and postpartum are ignored, it could lead to a weak spine in the later years of life. In order to ensure a safe and healthy birth, every pregnant woman should start taking care of herself as soon as she gets to know about her pregnancy so as to take good care of the baby growing inside her.

Most women continue to work during pregnancy and might face some challenges at the workplace.

1. Easing nausea and vomiting – It’s called “morning” sickness but pregnancy queasiness can hit at any time. To ease nausea at work:

• Avoid nausea triggers: That double latte you craved every morning before pregnancy or the smell of foods reheated in the break room microwave might now make your stomach flip-flop. Steer clear of anything that triggers nausea.

• Snack often: Crackers and other bland foods can be lifesavers when you feel nauseated. Keep a stash at work for easy snacking. Ginger ale or ginger tea might help, too.

2. Handling fatigue – You might feel tired as your body works overtime to support your pregnancy — and resting during the workday can be tough. It might help if you:

Eat foods rich in iron and protein: Fatigue can be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia, but adjusting your diet can help. Choose foods such as red meat, poultry, seafood, leafy green vegetables, iron-fortified whole-grain cereal and beans.

• Take short, frequent breaks: Getting up and moving around for a few minutes can reinvigorate you. Spending a few minutes with the lights off, your eyes closed and your feet up also can help you recharge.

• Drink plenty of fluids: Keep a water bottle at your desk or in your work area and sip throughout the day.

• Cut back on activities: Scaling back can help you get more rest when your workday ends. Consider doing your shopping online or hiring someone to clean the house.

• Keep up your fitness routine: Although exercise might be the last thing on your mind at the end of a long day, physical activity can help boost your energy level — especially if you sit at a desk all day. Take a walk after work or join a prenatal fitness class, as long as your health care provider says it’s OK.

• Go to bed early: Aim for at least eight hours of sleep every night. Resting on your left side will increase blood flow to your baby and ease swelling. For added comfort, place pillows between your legs and under your belly.

3. Staying comfortable – As your pregnancy progresses, everyday activities such as sitting and standing can become uncomfortable. Remember to take those short, frequent breaks to combat fatigue? Moving around every few hours also can ease muscle tension and help prevent fluid build-up in your legs and feet. Try these other strategies, too:

Sitting: Using an adjustable chair with good lower back support can make long hours of sitting much easier — especially as your weight and posture change. If your chair isn’t adjustable, use a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support for your lower back. Elevate your legs to decrease swelling.

• Standing: When you are standing for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest, low stool or box. Switch feet every so often and take frequent breaks. Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Consider wearing support or compression hose, too.

• Bending and lifting. Even when you’re lifting something light, proper form can spare your back. Bend at your knees, not your waist. Keep the load close to your body, lifting with your legs — not your back. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.

4. Keeping stress under control – Stress on the job can sap the energy you need to care for yourself and your baby. To minimize workplace stress:

• Take control: Make daily to-do lists and prioritize your tasks. Consider what you can delegate to someone else — or eliminate.

• Talk it out: Share frustrations with a supportive co-worker, friend or loved one.

• Relax: Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing slowly or imagining yourself in a calm place. Try a prenatal yoga class, as long as your health care provider suggests it.

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