These days there are plenty of laws to make things easier for you when you’re pregnant at work. However, whilst law protects you on paper, the reality of your employment situation and the physical demands of daily work can take their toll.
Here are a few tips on how to make pregnancy a pleasure – or at least a little more pleasant! – whilst you’re still at work.
1. Overcoming morning sickness
In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, morning sickness can hit the hardest. Although this feeling of nausea (whether accompanied by vomiting or not) is usually completely gone by 16 weeks, it’s in those first weeks of pregnancy that you’re usually trying to be discreet about your pregnancy with your colleagues and employers!
Small snacks can really help but try small amounts of different things before you find what suits you.
Sadly, in some cases, this sickness leaves you so ill that you can’t avoid telling someone at work about your situation because you have to take time off. If this is the case, you can still ask the person at your office (either your direct boss or the personal/HR manager) to be discreet and not broadcast why you’re off.
2. Be a smart commuter
Of course it’s not always easy to change your route to work unless you live in a town or city where there are multiple routes to take, but if you’re always stuck on a busy train with no seat, think about adjusting your own timetable and/or route to work to grab yourself more breathing space on that unavoidable commute.
Bear in mind that, once your employer knows your condition, you can ask for a reasonable adjustment to your timings if it’s feasible within your job. You may find shifting your hours a little earlier or later will help.
3. Know your rights
Just because there are laws to protect you at work, don’t immediately fear that you’ll get a hard time from your employer. Yes, cases of discrimination hit the headlines, but that’s because they are getting rarer.
Still, it’s good to get yourself sussed on what your rights are in terms of conditions at work, when you have to tell employers your pregnant, and how long you can take for check-ups, antenatal tests and maternity leave itself.
4. Improve your workplace environment
The charity Tommy’s is dedicated to improving the pregnancy health of UK mums and babies. Tommy’s have some excellent advice on how to improve your surroundings and experience at work when pregnant.
5. Make yourself comfortable
Although even non-pregnant employees have been made more aware of the importance of the physical demands of where they work in recent years, it doesn’t stop us all slouching or sitting badly, or working within cramped desk and office spaces, when we’re so busy we haven’t stopped to check that our bodies are properly supported.
Now that your pregnancy hormones are affecting the way your ligaments and muscles support your changing shape, it’s vital that you make sure you have good posture and that you have good support for your feet.
Make sure you can stretch and get up to move around regularly, and that you have a footrest (whether this is a proper rest or books or a box chosen to suit your level) that will keep your legs comfortable. If you don’t you’ll find that you are more likely to get sciatica, back pain or swollen ankles.
6. Don’t leave food until lunchtime
You will feel faint if you don’t eat anything between breakfast and lunch. Pregnancy is not a time to diet!
Keeping a supply of handy little snacks by your desk is a good idea.
If you’re going into a long meeting, think about how you can take something discreet to eat with you (or take a loo break to go and have a quick snack).
7. Stay hydrated
Carry a bottle of water with you at all times, including on the journey to and from work. This doesn’t have to be mineral water but keeping a filled up bottle with you is handier than occasionally remembering to get a cup of water.
8. Keep moving
Don’t sit at your desk for hours at a time. Get up, stretch yourself out, and make a virtue of toilet breaks. Walk the long way round to the loos!
Whilst you shouldn’t expose yourself to small falls by reaching for files on high shelves whilst balancing on a chair – no one should at work anyway, but a pregnancy bump is going to seriously affect your sense of balance! If you’re having to bend down for things, use it as a chance to practise squats and kneeling ready for labour!
Moving around will also freshen your outlook when you come back to your desk.
9. Relax and enjoy!
If your work is busy or someone in the office is giving you grief, it’s not always easy to ‘enjoy’ work. However, it’s worth taking a five-minute break to go and chat to someone you get on with, have a laugh, or take a short break away from your desk and perhaps just tune into your bump for that brief time. You’ll find it not only does you good, but it makes you approach your work better when you return, which means your employer benefits, too.
Be mindful of your duty to do your own job and don’t expect others to do it for you.
Try a few small exercises – the kind of shoulder, neck, back and leg exercises that can easily be done on a plane, for example. Don’t over stretch, but just move your muscles with small motions to help get things flowing again.
10. Feel confident about your time off work
There’s no need to stress yourself when you know an appointment is coming up that you’ll need to take time off work for.
Keep your employer informed of dates and times when you’ll need to attend check-ups and scans, and think about how much time you’ll need or want off for maternity leave.
“Snacks perk me up”
“Unfortunately, having a nap at work isn’t feasible so I’ve found that grazing on high-energy, low-fat snacks such as bananas, stopped me hitting the tiredness wall. Going out in the fresh air for a quick meander perked me up, too.”
Julia, 33, 7 months pregnant