Between physical changes, emotional highs and lows, childbirth preparation classes, appointments with practitioners, dietary restrictions, tests and, of course, frequent trips to the bathroom, being pregnant readjusts your priorities. And then there’s work, which somehow has to mesh with the demands of the ever-growing baby inside you.
If you’re healthy, experiencing a normal pregnancy without complications and work in a safe environment, you may be able to work until you go into labor, or very close to that time. In the meantime, work with, and around, your pregnancy with these simple guidelines.
Dealing with nausea at work
Three in four women experience some nausea or vomiting during pregnancy — and while you may not be able to rid yourself of it altogether, you can make the situation more manageable. Here are some office-friendly stomach-settling strategies:
- Pack two washcloths. A wet washcloth can be very soothing; a second can come in handy for clean-ups.
- Stay fresh. Pack mouthwash, mints, gum, a toothbrush and toothpaste. If you vomit frequently, keep a clean shirt, foundation (or whatever makeup you use) and lip balm in your desk or bag so you’re prepared to freshen up.
- Stash ginger and lemon. A can of real ginger ale, ginger candies or ginger tea bags or a whiff of fresh lemon can help soothe nausea.
- Avoid group dining. If certain smells trigger your nausea, steer clear of them whenever possible. That may mean declining an invitation to lunch or shunning the company cafeteria.
Planning out your meals
You need to feed yourself and baby regularly, no matter what’s going on in your work agenda. Eating and drinking water frequently will help keep your energy up and nausea down. So plan accordingly — making room in even your busiest days for five to six mini-meals. Here’s how:
- Stock up on snacks. Keep snacks in your bag or desk drawer, and nibble throughout the day to keep your energy up and settle an upset stomach, like a bag of mixed nuts, dried fruit, whole wheat crackers, pretzels, rice cakes and muffins.
- Bag your lunch. Greasy fast food can be difficult to digest (especially if you’re nauseous), but bringing your own food ensures you have healthy, palatable options. Choose a combo of carbs and protein, like whole-wheat toast or bagels, grilled chicken, yogurt, cheese, nut butter and bananas.
- Invest in a good water bottle. Keep a full BPA-free plastic (or glass) water bottle at your desk filled with room-temperature water (it’s easier to stomach than ice-cold water), and sip frequently throughout the day to stay hydrated and ward off nausea. Add lemon, lime or orange slices to keep it interesting.
- Keep a thermos of soup or a fruit smoothie nearby. A few sips can provide solid nutrients if you’re feeling nauseous, lost your appetite or can’t eat much at one sitting.
A few simple strategies can help you stay a bit more comfortable as your body changes:
- Dress comfortably. Wear loose, comfortable work clothes and low heels as your waistline expands. If your company has an office-casual dress code, fall back on leggings, boots and a cozy cardigan in the winter; or long, flowy dresses and ballerina flats in warmer months.
- Modify activities. Talk to your boss to reduce physically strenuous activities (like heavy lifting) and other on-the-job safety concerns, spend less time on your feet and avoid travel in the third trimester.
- Stay off your feet. At least as much as possible. If possible, keep one foot on a low stool, knee bent, when you stand, to take pressure off of your back. Switch feet regularly and flex them periodically.
- Put your feet up. Find a box, a wastebasket or another sturdy object where you can rest your feet to reduce swelling.
- Take a break. Often. Stand up and walk around if you’ve been sitting; sit down with your feet up if you’ve been standing. And plan for frequent bathroom breaks (holding it in can lead to UTIs).
- Do some stretching exercises. Especially for your back, legs and neck. Try raising your arms above your head, clasping your fingers palms up and reaching up. Next, place your hands on a table or desk, step back and stretch your back. Then sit down and rotate your ankles.
- Adjust your chair. Back hurt? Slip on a lumbar cushion for extra support. Bottom sore? Slide a soft pillow onto your seat.
You’ll need to see your practitioner every month, and even more frequently during the last several weeks. That can be hard when you’re faced with meetings, deadlines, quotas, attendance requirements or other work obligations. A few tips:
- Schedule smart. Try to schedule your checkups, sonograms, blood tests, glucose tolerance tests and other procedures before your workday begins (you may be too tired afterward) or during your lunch break.
- Keep a log. If you need to leave work in the middle of the day, explain to your boss that you have a doctor’s appointment, and record these visits just in case anyone accuses you of slacking off.
- Request a note from your practitioner if possible.If you anticipate any questions about your whereabouts, ask your doctor to verify your appointments in writing and give this to your employer or someone in your human-resources department.
Coping with stress
Pregnancy can be filled with bursts of energy and bouts of fatigue, utter joy and sudden tears. Here are a few strategies to stay cool and collected at work where those around you expect you to act professionally and get your job done:
- Stay rested. Being well-rested always helps keep things in perspective. A full night’s snooze can be harder than ever during pregnancy — which is why it’s more important than ever to schedule sleep and take steps to solve any pregnancy-related sleep problems.
- Don’t try to do too much. This isn’t the time to volunteer to take on extra projects unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Stay extra-organized. If pregnancy forgetfulness is putting a dent in your usually organized and focused self (when is that big company meeting again?), make lists and write yourself reminders.
- Accept help. If colleagues offer to help out when you’re not feeling well, say yes and thank you! Remember, you can return the favor someday.
- Breathe. Try to take time throughout the day to slow down, breathe and relax. Listen to music, close your eyes and meditate or indulge in daydreaming.
- Get fresh air. If you do find yourself emotionally overwhelmed (even by a stuck stapler), take a brief walk or a bathroom break to catch your breath (or indulge in a private moment of mom-to-be madness).
No doubt the day will come — especially in the first and third trimesters — when you can barely lift your head off your pillow (or leave the bathroom for more than five minutes) and you’ve got a pile of stuff on your desk or a major deadline looming. What then? Take a deep breath and try to stay calm — panicking never helps. If you just can’t get it all done, tell your boss you need extra time or extra help. And don’t beat yourself up — you’re not lazy or incompetent. You’re pregnant!