Welcome to the next part of the Healthy Pregnancy Series! If you haven’t been following along, you can catch up on the older posts here. Today’s is about working during pregnancy, which is something that a lot of women have to face. How do you handle it? What about morning sickness in the office? Is your job safe? When should you tell? What happens when it comes time for maternity leave? Do you go back to work or not? There’s a lot to think about!
Morning Sickness in the Office
Unfortunately, morning sickness is a reality for many women, and this includes on the job. If you can possibly eat something when you first wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, it may help stave off the worst of the nausea. Bring plenty of snacks with you too. Eat on the way into work. Bring your “arsenal” with you — peppermint candies, lemon drops, sea-bands, ginger candies or gingerale, and anything else that makes you feel better. If you can banish the nausea enough to function, you’re doing okay.
What if you get sick at the office, though? It happens to many women at least once, and if you’re one of the unlucky ones who needs throw up several times a day, it may happen on a regular basis. Know the most direct path to the bathroom and how to get there quickly. Keep your trash can nearby just in case. Bring some mouth wash and maybe a toothbrush to clean up after. If you’re having real trouble, you may have to tell your boss very early in your pregnancy, so she knows what’s going on. If possible, you may have to take a couple weeks off during the worst of the morning sickness, or work from home if that is a possibility for you. Most women manage to handle morning sickness at the office without having to actually take time off, but it varies from woman to woman. Just make sure you’re moving slowly if you need to. A quick nap at lunch is not a bad idea!
Safety on the Job
What job do you have? Is it safe for a pregnant woman? If you are expected to do heavy lifting (over 30 lbs.) or if you are working with chemicals or around fumes of some sort, your job is probably not safe at this point. If you are in a company with over 50 employees and have been there for at least a year, you are protected by FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). Under this act, you would be reassigned to a safer job during your pregnancy. In the case of a safety issue, you would have to inform the boss of your pregnancy sooner rather than later.
In other jobs, where perhaps only some tasks are difficult or pose some safety threat, you may be able to keep quiet and try to avoid those jobs. Just pay close attention to your job responsibilities, and discuss them with your boss if you have any concerns about your safety.
Sharing the Big News
When do you tell? Many women choose to wait until around 12 weeks, or the end of the first trimester, before they share their pregnancy. If you are worried about the possibility of miscarriage, or your boss’s reaction (or co-workers’ reactions), wait to tell. Some women are worried that they will be treated differently — and unfairly — because they are pregnant. And this may unfortunately be true, depending on your job and your boss.
It’s probably a good idea to tell your boss privately before you announce it to your co-workers. That way you can talk directly to your boss first about how your plans are — are you going to quit? Come back after the baby? How long do you want to go on maternity leave? Will you start before the baby comes (like around 38 weeks) or wait until you go into labor? Think about what your answers will be before you bring this all to your boss. Once your boss knows and you’ve discussed what you’ll be doing, it’s okay to tell co-workers freely.
Be careful about Facebook and other social media. If you are friends with your boss and/or co-workers on these social media forums, don’t announce your pregnancy there until after you’ve told at work. Otherwise, it could get back to your boss second or third hand, which may not go so well. Just be careful what you say and to whom when you are on the job, until everyone knows.
Handling Maternity Leave
Most companies guarantee about six weeks of maternity leave. You can take more than that if you have vacation or sick leave time saved up. Some women take about 12 weeks. Others can even take up to 6 months, or work from home for awhile, or even work part time for awhile after the baby comes. But, these are decisions you need to make.
Will you take maternity leave before the baby is born or only just when it’s time? That is, will you plan to just stop working at 38 weeks (or 39, 40, etc.) whether or not you’ve had the baby, or will you wait until you go into labor and call in and say that you are not coming in! This will depend on the type of job you have. If you are in sales or waitressing or another job where it is easier to get someone to cover for you, you may choose to wait until the baby comes (assuming you’re not too exhausted). If you’re a teacher, or another job where planning needs to happen more in advance, you may choose a particular day or week to simply stop working. This is something to discuss with your boss.
Remember that you will want as much time as possible at home with your baby, to bond and also to heal after the birth. You’ll be more exhausted in these early weeks than at any other time in your life, because your hormones are going crazy, you’re trying to heal from pregnancy and birth, and your baby probably isn’t letting you sleep that much.
FMLA can help here, too. You can take up to 12 weeks off, although they may be unpaid. Research your rights before going to your boss to lay out your plan. Remember that, depending on your job, you may need to train your temporary replacement. All of these things need to be discussed and decided!
Returning to Work
Are you planning to return to work, or are you planning to quit? Decide this as early in your pregnancy as you can. You may not know right away what you would prefer to do. And there are a lot of factors. If you do return to work, you’ll have to get someone to watch your baby. Will you choose a neighbor, friend, parent? Or will you choose a daycare center or in-home daycare situation? How much will these options cost? Will it be worth it to go back to work, financially? In certain cases, daycare can cost up to $2500 a month! It just depends on your area, how young your baby is when the baby goes to daycare, etc.
There’s also simply your feelings — do you want to be a stay-at-home mom? Do you prefer to work? And remember, too, that once you see your baby you may feel differently, too.
Talk to your husband. Pray about it. Look at your finances. This is a difficult decision to make, but one you have to make.
Remember that even if you are quitting, you may be able to take all your vacation/sick time as maternity leave so you can get a little extra pay before you move to only one income.
Working during pregnancy isn’t easy, but many do it. It just requires a little extra planning and preparation!
By the way, I never *officially* worked during pregnancy. But I did go to school and I did student teach while I was pregnant. I never had to worry about the quitting aspect — because I finished before my daughter was born. I chose to tell my professors (well, one of them) almost immediately about my pregnancy, because we were just about to go on our summer break and when I returned, I’d be past 16 weeks and probably showing. I didn’t want them to find out that way. I also told my cooperating teacher when I emailed to introduce myself, because I was about 14 weeks along at that time. I made sure I carried plenty of snacks with me (as I tended to get hungry and dizzy). I usually had something on the way to teaching, plus I had a snack when I had a planning break, then lunch, a mid-afternoon snack during planning, plus dinner and bedtime snack. I brought a lot of food with me! I didn’t find it too hard, though.
How do you handle working during pregnancy?
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