"How are you feeling?" By the time your due date rolls around, you'll have heard this question countless times from co-workers and others. At different times in your pregnancy, you're likely to have different answers. Some days, you may forget you are pregnant, but other days, you may feel less comfortable or even totally uncomfortable. In this article, you'll find tips that can help you adjust to the physical and personal changes of working while you're pregnant.
Feeling comfortable at work
Try to keep in mind that some of the more common discomforts of pregnancy – tiredness and nausea, for example – last only a short while for most women. Other discomforts, like back stress, can be minimized with the help of simple things like back pillows and footrests.
- To ease back strain, bend your knees when you're lifting anything even slightly heavy. If you sit for long periods, a back pillow and footrest may help keep you comfortable. If you have to stand for long periods of time, alternate putting one foot and then the other on a low stool. Standing on a fatigue-reducing rubber mat (available at most office supply stores) can also be helpful. You may also want to consider wearing a pregnancy support belt that can ease the strain on your lower back.
- Avoid muscle strains and tiredness by stretching and varying your activities often. Be careful to avoid overexerting yourself, because the normal hormonal changes of pregnancy may create swelling and loosening of your ligaments – which may put you at greater risk for strain and injury. (If you experience any numbness, pain, weakness, or burning in your joints or muscles, check with your health care provider.)
- To decrease swelling, remember to wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of fluids, eat high-protein meals, and avoid standing for long periods of time without rest. Regular exercise will also help. You can do simple exercises at your workstation, such as pointing and flexing your toes and rotating your ankles.
- If you're nauseated, try eating small snacks, like dry crackers, pretzels, or fruit. You may also want to have five or six light meals throughout the day rather than three larger ones. Relaxation exercises, like deep breathing, can help relieve nausea and reduce stress, too. Some women find the use of pressure-point bands worn on their wrists helpful in reducing nausea. You can buy a band – which works by exerting gentle pressure on specific acupressure points – at most pharmacies.
- If you're having heartburn problems, avoid drinking large amounts of liquid with your meals, and don't lie down right after you eat. Sleeping with your upper body on a slight incline – either by using pillows or a foam wedge – can help you avoid or minimize heartburn. During the day, try to avoid bending over or lifting heavy items for at least an hour after meals.
- To help with tiredness or headaches, schedule frequent short breaks in your day to stretch and change your position. Try to find a comfortable chair or couch to use during your breaks. Lie on your left side to increase circulation to you and the baby. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help minimize these symptoms.
- Choose work clothes for comfort. Choose outfits that are easy to take on and off. As your baby grows, increased pressure on your bladder will mean more frequent trips to the bathroom. Separates – skirts or pants with a top – provide variety, but toward the end of your pregnancy waistbands may feel uncomfortable. Low-heeled, comfortable shoes with good support are very important. Even moderately high heels can strain your back and constrict circulation.
- Show a copy of your job description to your health care provider. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you should cut back on any of your usual activities at any point in your pregnancy. For example, if you have to stand for long periods, lift heavy objects, or if you may be exposed to chemicals or infectious diseases, let your doctor know. He or she may be able to advise you about how to change the way you do your job for the safety of you and your baby.
Finding ways to reduce stress
Reducing your physical and emotional stresses will help you feel your best and be most productive during your work hours.
- Get as much rest as you can. As you adjust to pregnancy-related changes in your routines, you may begin to find it harder to get to sleep or stay asleep. However, it will be easier to feel up for work the next day if you've had a good night's sleep. If you typically work late, try getting home a half-hour earlier to allow you more time to wind down in the evening. Allow extra time for sleep to help compensate for some of those inevitable nighttime trips to the bathroom that may become more frequent as your pregnancy progresses. You may find that trading a few weekend social activities for naps will help you start the workweek feeling relaxed and refreshed.
- Look for ways to reduce commuting stress. You may want to take a different route with less traffic or an earlier morning bus that's less crowded. Some women find that listening to quiet music helps make the commute seem less stressful.
- If co-workers want to help you, let them. Good friends and teammates at work may start "looking out for you" in a new way once they find out you're pregnant. As long as you don't mind the extra attention, take advantage of their support.
- Find another co-worker or friend to talk with. Many women wonder if what they're feeling and experiencing is normal. Sharing stories and experiences with someone else who has been through a pregnancy may help you feel reassured and less stressed. A co-worker may also be able to give you helpful information about how she handled work-related stress during her pregnancy. Attending mom-to-mom support groups while pregnant is also an excellent way to gather information and learn tips from others who have experience. Most groups welcome pregnant moms as well as mothers with young babies.
- Plan for how you'll respond to personal questions at work. Most people will be sincerely concerned when they ask, "How are you feeling?" or make comments about your health or appearance during pregnancy, but you may want to keep some information private or share it only with close friends. It's a good idea to plan for how you'll answer questions from co-workers about common experiences during pregnancy, such as morning sickness or swollen ankles. This will help you share only what you feel comfortable sharing.
- Start an exercise program approved by your health care provider. Regular exercise, like walking, swimming, or yoga, can increase your energy level and help you sleep better.
- Eat regular meals and nutritious snacks. If you bring fruit, yogurt, or crackers from home, you may find it easier to avoid snacking on less wholesome vending-machine food when you're at work.
- Try to delegate daily tasks at home. Are there everyday jobs, such as making lunches, getting clothes ready for the next day, doing the dishes, or cleaning a child's room, that another adult or an older child could do? You might be able to buy some time and energy by hiring a cleaning service, getting take-out meals, or bringing your laundry or ironing to a cleaner.
Talk with your health care provider to learn more about how to handle discomfort and stress during your pregnancy.
© LifeWorks Canada Ltd 2017