Work and Pregnancy
Many women work during pregnancy without any complications. Being able to work safely, in some cases, until the day of delivery depends on the type of work performed and the mother-to-be's medical condition. However, the workplace does pose certain risks, depending upon the occupation. Knowing what these risks are and minimizing them will help increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy. Be sure the discuss the following job risks with your physician at your first prenatal visit:
- Exposure to metals such as mercury and lead can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, and other problems.
- Exposure to solvents such as household cleaning agents and pesticides can lead to fetal deformity and other problems.
- Exposure to pharmaceutical agents, such as chemotherapy may increase the rate of miscarriage, low birthweight, and malformations.
- Exposure to infections on the job, such as hepatitis, rubella, and other diseases can cause multiple problems during pregnancy.
- Exposure to physical agents such as radiation and radioactive waste can lead to abnormal fetal development, miscarriage, and other problems.
- Exposure to extreme heat on the job early in pregnancy may increase neural tube defects in the fetus.
- Physical job demands, such as prolonged standing or walking, heavy lifting, working varying shifts, and job stress can adversely affect a pregnancy.
Taking proper precautions to avoid these risks on the job can help keep you and your baby healthy throughout the pregnancy.
The American Medical Association recommends the following for working pregnant women:
- take a break every few hours
- take a longer meal break every four hours
- drink plenty of fluids while on the job
- vary work positions continuously, from sitting to standing and walking
- minimize heavy lifting and bending
Weight gain during pregnancy adds strain to the back. Proper lifting can help reduce the strain and prevent injury. When lifting, a pregnant woman should keep in mind the following recommendations:
- stand with feet shoulder-width apart
- tuck in the buttocks
- bend at the knees
- lift with the arms and legs, not the back
- limit the amount and weight of the items lifted
Today, many occupations involve the use of a computer. According to the March of Dimes, 50 million workers in the US use a computer on their job. Studies have shown that video display terminals (VDTs) do not emit x-rays to users of the computer.
However, another type of energy emitted by VDTs - electromagnetic field - is under investigation. No link has yet been found between exposure to the electromagnetic field of VDTs and risk to pregnant women. However, as the controversy continues and more studies are conducted, the pregnant woman using a computer should sit at arm's length away from the front of the computer screen.
Computers have also been associated with other complaints, such as neck, wrist, hand, shoulder, and back pain from prolonged sitting in the same position and eye strain. To alleviate these symptoms, the March of Dimes recommends the following:
- take frequent work breaks
- use detachable keyboards and adjustable chairs and tables
- use non-reflective glass on the screen, adjust the screen lighting and contrast, and install indirect lighting
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Online Resources of Pregnancy & Childbirth