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How to make pregnancy at work safe & comfortable

Tips on how to make sure you are safe and comfortable at work.
Your health and safety:

Your employer is legally obliged to make sure that your work environment is safe for both you and your developing baby. As such, once you tell them you're pregnant they should carry out a risk assessment to ensure this is the case. For this reason it can be a good idea to break the happy news to your boss sooner rather than later (you can always ask them to keep it to themselves) particularly if your job involves:
  • exposure to toxic chemicals or infectious diseases

  • working at a height

  • physically demanding tasks

  • long hours or rotating shifts

  • lifting or carrying heavy loads

  • sitting or standing for prolonged periods

  • repetitive work that increases the risk of strain conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome

  • exposure to physical hazards such as extreme temperature, loud noise, radiation, vibration or violence
If any aspect of your work is deemed unsafe for you to carry out while you are pregnant your employer should either:
  • Modify your role so as to remove the risk

  • Temporarily give you a new role/alternative work at the same rate of pay (if necessary) so that you are able to avoid the risk entirely

  • Suspend you from work on full pay - if neither of the above are possible
What should you do if you think you're at risk?

If you're concerned that an aspect of your job not identified in your risk assessment has the potential to cause harm to yourself or your developing baby then you should raise the issue with your employer as soon as possible. Providing your concerns are well founded they should be more than happy to modify your role further so as to remove the hazard.

What should you do if your employer doesn't agree?

If you believe an aspect of your work has health and safety implications but your employer doesn't agree you should firstly talk to your health and safety representative or a trade union official to see if they can help to resolve the issue. If this proves fruitless you should then either talk to your doctor or call the Health and Safety Executive helpline (0845 345 0055) for advice.

How to make work during pregnancy comfortable:

Once you're happy that your place of work and your responsibilities don't pose any risk to you or your baby you simply have to focus on making your working environment as comfortable as possible. Doing this will not only help to make your time until maternity leave a lot more pleasant but will also enable you to better cope with any pregnancy-related discomforts you experience and to focus on the task at hand. We explain how:
  • Take a break - Find the time to take regular breaks either to have a walk around (if you've been sitting) or to take the weight off your feet (if you've been standing). You should try to do this at least every hour to help keep your blood circulating properly and to keep your muscles moving. Having a nice stretch each time you do this can go a long way to helping you feel more comfortable and more awake.

  • Dress well - Try to wear loose, comfortable clothes and shoes that don't pinch your feet. Layers are always a good idea as you can then adjust what you're wearing to how you're feeling.

  • Keep topped up - Keeping a jug full of water on your desk will make staying hydrated easy. Getting your recommended 8 glasses of H2O a day will not only help to reduce water retention but will also help you to feel more alert.

  • Focus on food - No matter how busy you are make sure you find the time to eat. Going for healthy yet filling food choices such as wholegrains, pulses and fruit and vegetables will help to keep your blood sugar stable (great for preventing those early afternoon energy crashes) and ensure that your baby is getting all the nutrients he or she needs.

  • Keep calm - Getting stressed isn't good for you or baby so it's really important to try and find a way to channel any anxiety you feel at work. Deep breathing, fresh air and a little time out can really help you to calm down if you're starting to feel worked up. Taking regular exercise and focusing on the things you enjoy outside of work is a must too.

  • Sit up straight - You're more susceptible to strain related conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy so it's all the more important to check that your work station is ergonomically set out to minimise the risk. Your employer should be able to assist in doing this as part of your risk assessment however it's important that you revaluate the set-up as you progress through your pregnancy as your needs may change as your bump grows. Little things like having a foot rest can help enormously to take the strain off your back so it's worth making the effort for a little bit of extra comfort.

  • Share the load - Don't feel that you have to be superwoman, if a colleague offers their help, take it and if you need someone to share the load then don't be afraid to ask.

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I work in a busy veterinary surgery with bucket loads of stress, exposure to anaesthetic gas, heavy regular lifting and constant pressure. I am convinced that the stress of my workplace contributed to the loss of my first baby in September 2010. I found out a few days ago that I am pregnant again but I am almost too scared to go to work now in-case it happens again. I am going on a stress management course on Thursday and because people are now aware I am trying again (only told my boss so far that we have conceived a second time) they are being more careful to put up warning signs when there has been a gas leak. I just don't feel any of this will be enough though. I can't see any way to keep my baby safe, does anyone have any idea's?
by Shadowfax 14th Feb 2011, 9:03am

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