Health Hazards in the Workplace

If you are pregnant, you may be counting on continuing to work right up until your pregnancy due date. The majority of women in the United States continue to work at their jobs until they give birth and you have every right to do the same. However, before you tell your boss about your work plans during pregnancy, you may want to find out if there are any potential work place hazards at your job. Some jobs involve activities, chemicals, or other dangers that can be potentially hazardous to you and your baby’s health. Here is some information on common workplace hazards and tips on how to ensure your health and safety at work.

Physical Labor During Pregnancy

You may have a job that requires you to perform considerable amounts of physical labor. And while these physical tasks may have been safe for you to perform before you were pregnant, certain physical movements may now be dangerous for you. This is because pregnancy affects the way your body’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons operate. It also has a direct effect on your blood circulation and your posture. As a result, certain physical movements may increase the chances of:

  • developing circulatory problems, including varicose veins or blood clots
  • developing severe lower back pain
  • developing carpal tunnel syndrome
  • falling down (which can contribute to preterm labor or miscarriage)

Physical Activities To Avoid
During pregnancy it is important to avoid:

  • repetitive heavy lifting
  • pushing or pulling heavy loads
  • intense stair climbing
  • prolonged standing

Staying Safe In a Physical Job
The best way to stay safe in a physical job is to find a coworker who can take over some of your more dangerous activities. Speak with your employer about finding a replacement, and instead, offer to perform some other task. Your health care provider can supply you with a note advising your employer of dangerous activities. In order to reduce the risks that certain physical activities may have on you and your baby, be sure to:

  • take frequent rest breaks during the work day
  • stay hydrated
  • eat healthily
  • avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • monitor yourself for signs of stress

Chemical Exposure During Pregnancy

Many women handle, transport, or are exposed to chemicals on a daily basis as a result of their work. If your workplace requires you to interact with any type of chemical, you may want to think twice about performing that particular job during pregnancy. This is because a number of different chemicals have been shown to be particularly dangerous for both you and baby’s health. Effects of exposure can include:

  • preterm birth
  • miscarriage
  • physical birth defects and deformities
  • developmental problems later in life

Extremely high levels of chemical exposure have been known to cause severe illness and even death in moms-to-be. As a result, it is very important to be aware of the health and safety hazards of chemical exposure during pregnancy.

Chemicals To Watch Out For:
It is important to be wary of all types of chemicals during pregnancy, but in particular, it is essential to limit your exposure to:

  • lead
  • mercury
  • carbon monoxide
  • pesticides
  • anesthetics

If You Have To Work With Chemicals:
Pregnant women who work with chemicals on a regular basis are advised to ask their employers for another temporary position or to stop working altogether. However, the choice to continue working is up to you. If you choose to continue working, be sure to follow proper safety precautions:

  • Wear protective clothing, such as gloves and a ventilator, at all times.
  • Avoid direct contact with all chemicals.
  • Remove any contaminated clothing as soon as possible.
  • Ask your employer to install extra ventilation equipment.

Hazards at the Office

If you work in an office environment, you may also be worried about potential health hazards. Many pregnant women worry about prolonged use of the computer or photocopier at work; however, these pieces of equipment have not been shown to have any harmful effect on pregnant women. The most common hazards in an office environment include:

  • Stress: Stress is a common part of most jobs, and you may find that you are having a difficult time juggling your job responsibilities and your pregnancy. It is important to stay as stress-free as possible however, because stress can have negative effects on your health. Stress has been known to contribute to poor eating habits and depression, and may actually impair your body’s ability to fight off infection. Avoid stress as much as possible by taking frequent breaks, asking for more flexible working hours, or finding a coworker who can help you out.
  • Travel: Some jobs require frequent travel and you may find yourself spending long hours in a car, train, or airplane. While travel is safe for women up to the 36th week of pregnancy, you want to avoid lengthy trips. Try to minimize car travel to five to six hours a day, and be sure to stop or get up (if in a train or plane) frequently to walk around. Avoid traveling to places located at high altitudes, as this can lower the amount of oxygen that both you and baby get. As you get closer to your due date, be sure to discuss any travel arrangements with your health care provider.

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