Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes. Not just physically for the woman's system, but also mentally, socially, psychologically and emotionally. It also affects how her family members handle her, her employer and colleagues, and other places outside of her personal space. For the pregnant working woman, the challenge is even greater, depending on the kind of job she does, as there are some in high risk jobs that can affect the pregnancy, both for mom and the unborn child. While moms know they go through lots of changes, many women don't think they can change their daily routine, like exercising or doing things around the home, as well as social activities and working. Even pregnant female athletes have been known to still run and work out during pregnancy - talk about extreme multitasking.
However, there are jobs that shouldn't continue when a mom is pregnant. Either that or, because of their hazardous nature, mom should work with her employer to make a few changes to accommodate her new status, for the safety of mom and the baby. Here are just 20 of the hazards in the workplace that are risky for pregnant women. If mom-to-be can possibly avoid them, she should.
20 Desktop computers and Laptops
Much has been said about desktop computers and laptops, especially the presence of toxic substances which are said to be found in these machines, but also the potentially dangerous hazards generated by the screen, known as the electromagnetic field (EMF). These are said to be seriously damaging to anyone's health. For pregnant women, especially those in the workplace, desktops and laptops pose a greater hazard because research, according to Family Education, is beginning to suggest there may be some health risks associated with their use, even for those hoping to conceive. Studies are identifying possible health risks which users should be aware of, and EMF exposure has been found to alter reproductive endocrine hormones, embryonic development, fetal development, and pregnancy in general.
19 Tasks that require long hours of standing
Whether you're in your first trimester, or your last few weeks building up to labor, anything that requires standing for long hours will always take a toll on your body. Pregnant women in jobs like nursing, hotel catering, sales, police officers or the military and other such careers will have to be on their feet all day, and probably everyday at the very least. This can be a trying time for any pregnant woman, and even worse, dangerous for her unborn baby because it not only disrupts blood flow, but also increases risk of high blood pressure. This is why some women, especially those with high risk pregnancies in such jobs are either advised to switch to desk jobs or quit altogether by the 24th to 32nd week. Those who are okay can still continue working, but take frequent breaks and wear comfy, well-fitting, low-heeled shoes.
Like laptops and desktop computers, cellphones also have the potential to harm the unborn fetus, what with the surge in radiofrequency exposure from such devices over the years. This hazard is associated with hypersensitivity and diseases related to EMF and RF exposure, according to Lifehack. Cellphones are known to contain lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium, all of which are potentially harmful in large doses. Today's world doesn't spare anyone intending to communicate, because most, if not all people rely on teheir cellphones or smart devices to stay in touch with loved ones and workmates, plus get their jobs done while tracking what is going on around them. Wireless internet connections are also on almost every hour of day and night. For pregnant women, the potential dangers cellphones pose are two-fold - to mom and the unborn baby.
Yes, words can be just as hazardous as they are encouraging. Words can add value to one's life, or they can cause the same life to wither due to discouragement, and being down trodden. For pregnant moms, especially in the workplace, what people say has a way of affecting them, firstly because they're in a delicate state with their emotional imbalance, and because anything that affects mom also affects the unborn baby. Words spoken to the pregnant woman can bring joy or stress depending on the context, who is saying it, and the state of her mind at the time. Employers and colleagues need to be careful how they handle pregnant women at the office at this time.
16 Hot or cold working environment
During pregnancy, the body is likely to be warmer than the usual, and this is largely caused by hormonal changes leading to an increase in supply of blood to the skin. Pregnant women are also likely to sweat a lot more than normal, which is why working in a hot environment is not recommended for them. An extremely cold area is also not good for pregnant women especially in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, which researchers have found to be linked to early delivery. Women exposed to extreme heat when they're pregnant, and for most of the time they're expectant, are also more likely to deliver before their due date. According to Daily Mail, researchers haven't known exactly why this happens, but they have linked it to the stress of the extreme temperatures hindering development of the placenta, and altering blood flow to the uterus, both of which trigger an early labor.
15 Tasks that require physical strength
According to Family Education, if you're a pregnant mom and your job requires that you lift, push, bend, shove and load materials all day, every day, then you're better off asking for a reassignment or quitting the job altogether by the 20th week of pregnancy. This is because that kind of work can be strenuous on your body and affect the unborn baby. Heavy lifting is a matter of concern during pregnancy, but there are recommended weights that moms are allowed to lift, beyond which it becomes hazardous for them. This also explains why they can carry their other kids in the house occasionally, but not all the time.
14 Ladders or staircases
Climbing staircases and ladders at the workplace are hazardous for pregnant moms. Among the reasons is they can slip and fall or easily twist a foot and this causes not just pain but stress to the body, the mom and the baby eventually. If a pregnant woman trips during pregnancy, it may lead to a fatality especially for the developing fetus, or trauma to the abdomen which Family Education says can cause the placenta to pull away from the uterine wall. All these need immediate attention, but pregnant women are advised not to clim on anything, and if they need something that is up on a high shelf, leave the ladder or chair where it is and ask a colleague to help get it for you. Whatever you do, keep your feet on the ground.
13 Strong or unpleasant smells
Everyone likes a sweet smelling scent, or smells that actually bring good feelings of joy, happiness and good nostalgia really. If the scent in the office isn't enhancing your work, its probably time to change it altogether. For pregnant women, however, strong and/or unpleasant smells can vary, because of the hormonal changes which also affect how they respond to different things around them. One pregnant woman may love the smell of flowers, while to another, it may trigger nausea especially in early pregnancy. For the latter, who responds with nausea or other symptoms, she can relocate or add ventilation to the area, or simply take a break from that spot.
12 Extensive travelling
Traveling isn't every pregnant woman's cup of tea, especially when the fatigue from baby's growth and increasing weight sets in. Sometimes even as early as the first trimester, which can be challenging for many pregnant women, travel is not necessarily a priority. But what happens when you're pregnant and your job entails much travel, and there's not much you can do about it? Well, Stanford Childrens organisation recommends that you try and schedule travel during the middle of your pregnancy which they say is the safest time for travel, and a time when early pregnancy symptoms have waned off and you're not too big and uncomfortable. For air travel, pregnant moms in 36 weeks or more of their pregnancy are advised to avoid it, otherwise they should eat smaller meals, take required vaccinations, and book an aisle seat so they can walk around and access the bathroom easily. Also wear your seatbelt below your belly or across the hipbones.
11 Tasks that involve the use of toxic substances
The word toxic itself already qualifies as a hazard for anyone, especially pregnant women, because of the unborn child. There are various jobs that involve the use of toxic and dangerous substances, such as artists who use paints and solvents every day, dry cleaners, farm workers who use pesticides, tollbooth attendants who can't avoid breathing in car fumes and truck exhaust smoke, or even those in factories and industries. The list is almost endless, but for pregnant moms, the best thing would be to seek a reassignment or protect yourself using a facemask and better ventilation. Discuss it over with your doctor for more advice on how to handle the situation at work and what to avoid.
10 Stress and fatigue from workload
Just like words, stress can sap all the energy you need to take care of you and the unborn child. Workplace stress can be a challenge for pregnant women because it has an impact on immunity and increases the risk for infectious and non-infectious diseases. It also poses risks on the physical and emotional wellbeing of baby, mom and her family in general. For pregnant women who are entrepreneurs, they may find it easier to manage their time, but where they are employees, this has to be arranged with the management in order to get flexi time on the job. Stress can also affect a pregnant woman if the baby was unplanned for or the relationship with her husband or baby's father is not as good.
9 Tasks that expose you to radiation
Besides toxic substances and electromagnetic field or radiofrequency wave exposures, radiation is another hazard in the workplace for pregnant women. Family Education notes that there are two kinds of exposure to radiation that should worry pregnant women. The first is non-ionizing radiation and the second is ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation comes from appliances that can be found both at home and at the workplace such as microwave ovens and TV sets, while ionizing radiation is from X-rays. Pregnant women working in places with such radiation need to be careful like if its the TV or microwave, they can sit far from the television and for microwaves, stand at least three feet away when it is running. If working where you may be exposed to X-rays, seek reassignment because it puts you at risk of cancer and birth defects.
8 Excessive exposure to loud noises
Nobody likes loud noises, especially those irritating ones like those in construction sites or factories and other such plants. However, there are those who work in such environments, and some are pregnant women. Working in a noisy job when pregnant, according to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), can affect your hearing and increase stress levels. High noise levels can also increase chances of baby being born with hearing problems. The stress from loud noises also affect the pregnant woman's body and her developing baby as sound travels through the body and reaches the baby, even if it will be muffled in the womb. The only way is to protect yourself from all the noise.
7 Uncomfortable Furniture/Chairs
This isn't just a hazard for pregnant moms as it is for any other person, but it is more of a hazard for pregnant women because it poses risks to herself and her unborn child. Mayo Clinic says that as pregnancy progresses, daily activities like standing and/or sitting can get uncomfortable, so pregnant moms are encouraged to move around every few hours or so to ease tension on the muscles and prevent buildup of fluid in the legs and feet. They should also sit on an adjustable chair with good lower back support, and if they have to stand for long, use a footrest to put one of the feet up or a low stool or box, switching the feet often and taking breaks.
6 Working on machines that produce heavy vibrations
Anything that affects the pregnant mom directly will also affect the unborn child. Working on machines that produce heavy vibrations definitely has a direct effect on the unborn baby because, as Livestrong notes, the standard recommendation is for the pregnant women to avoid shaking types of vibration like those produced when operating a jackhammer. A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine indicated that vibrations can play a role in increased risks of abortion, stillbirth and fetal damage, but this is when intensive and focused on hours-long exposure in the workplace. Either way, its good to be careful and protect both the mom and the unborn child.
5 Work that involves prolonged sitting
Prolonged sitting isn't good for anyone, whether pregnant, old, young or otherwise. Sitting down too much, Mirror magazine notes, while pregnant risks harming the unborn child. A group of researchers from Warwick medical School found that prolonged sitting for more than six hours every day, especially in the second trimester, leads to greater weight gain and diabetes hence birth complications. Pregnant women who are feeling depressed are more likely to sit down longer. This is why they're encouraged to take walks, stretch, and do other exercises because sitting down isn't good for mommy or baby.
4 Exposure to harmful germs and viruses
Germs and viruses are everyone's enemy, because they just speak disease and illnesses. For pregnant women, exposure to germs and viruses are hazardous because there's a risk that the mom can pass the infection acquired from these through to the baby especially during childbirth. Women working in health facilities are at a higher risk because they are right in the middle of everything so standard hygiene precautions are needed to control the risks. Pregnant women need also to check their immune statuses with their doctors, and ensure they take the required vaccinations all through the pregnancy from day one to the last.
3 Work that involves diving
Swimming is a great exercise for pregnant women as it allows them to stretch and keep fit during the pregnancy. However, for pregnant women whose jobs entail diving, it becomes a hazard because of the hyperbaric pressure which the University of Essex says can harm the fetus and the pregnant woman may also be at risk of decompression sickness. In this case, therefore, pregnant women are prohibited and/or discouraged from diving. An alternative to this is snorkeling, but before you try it or do it, whether you're used to it or not, seek medical advice from your doctor first.
2 Personal protective equipment (PPE) clothing or uniform
Pregnant women in jobs that require wearing of uniforms or protective clothing such as overalls, can find it cumbersome especially with the growing belly because they need clothing that frees them up. Uniform doesn't always fit when you're pregnant because as the belly grows, you'll have to keep adding sizes so as to stay comfortable while match the workplace dress code. Such careers as the military, or nursing, or others requiring PPE clothing or uniform can be a stressor for pregnant working women, as it also increases heat and fatigue, or may be uncomfortable to wear. The best thing is to consider alternatives where PPE isn't needed if there are no alternative such clothing items, or provide alternative clothing with the same level of protection.
1 Stuffy office and cluttered desk
Cluttered desk and stuffy offices are another source of danger in terms of workplace hazards for pregnant women. Firstly, with cluttered desks, you never know what's lurking underneath all the files and paperwork that's aimlessly scattered on the desk, like a stapler, or box of pins, or even a paper punch - you know how much pain any of these little gadgets can cause if they prick or fall on your foot. A stuffy office also causes a lot of stress because a stuffy environment, while not good for anyone else (even in cold places or seasons) can take a toll on the woman's body because she's already feeling hot owing to increased blood flow from being pregnant. Fresh air is good and it should actually flow in the office, plus cluttered desks need to be freed up to relieve the pregnant woman of stress.
References: parents.com, safebirthproject.com, livestrong.com, cdc.gov, familyeducation.com, mayoclinic.org, essex.ac.uk, lifehack.org