10 Worst Things About Being Pregnant at Work (and How to Deal)
April 5, 2019
You wake up exhausted and not in the mood, but you drag yourself to work—only to sit (or stand) in one place, all. day. long. And that was your reality before getting pregnant—these days, forget it! Working when you’re expecting isn’t always easy, and we’ve rounded up the 10 worst parts to prove it. But hang in there: We also dish on how to get through the downsides!
It’s the first trimester. You’re grumpy. You’re weepy. You feel like you have the stomach flu all day, every day. But you aren’t ready to tell anyone you’re pregnant, so you muster through. But if your symptoms are affecting your work, you might want to rethink your “don’t-tell” policy. “There are sometimes compelling reasons to tell,” says Marjorie Greenfield, MD, ob-gyn and author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book. “Sometimes you can get accommodations.” Think it through. If you spilled the beans, would your boss consider modifying your work schedule? Move you to a workspace closer to the restroom? Give you some sympathy when you look like a zombie at 1 p.m.?
When my cube-mate, Kim, got pregnant, she found herself diving into conference rooms to puke in the trash can. It was intense. If you’re throwing up at work, keep snacks in your desk and munch on them throughout the day, since having an empty stomach can make your nausea worse. Ginger has been proven to help too, says Hope Ricciotti, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Get crystallized ginger chews,” says Ricciotti, and keep chewing them—it takes about four days for ginger to start working.
If it’s particularly bad, talk to your doctor ASAP. “A lot of people feel like nausea and vomiting are so normal that they have to deal with it,” says Greenfield. “But there are medicines that can make it substantially better,” including Diclegis, a powerful combo of B vitamins and antihistamines that has been proven safe during pregnancy.
You haven’t been pregnant until you’ve fallen asleep during a work meeting. “Many women don’t expect how exhausting the first trimester can be,” says Ricciotti. She recommends short naps (easier said than done, we know), keeping a regular sleep schedule and cutting out any “extras” in your day (including girls’ night—sorry). “It’s work, home, dinner, bed. You’ll feel better after the first trimester,” she says. When third trimester exhaustion hits, add a couple hours to your sleep plan for bathroom trips and tossing and turning. In other words, “if you want to get eight hours of sleep, you need to be in bed 10 hours,” she says.
There’s positive attention and then there’s negative attention, like way-too-personal questions (“How much weight have you gained?”) and unwanted advice.
“Just remember: You don’t have to give any info you don’t want to give. You’re allowed to set boundaries,” says Murphy Daley, author of The Pregnant Professional. “You can always just answer ‘Thanks for asking. I’m doing the best I can.’” Most people do have good intentions—and it can be easy to say the wrong thing. Move quickly to a question about the other person. People love to talk about themselves, and it’ll just look like you’re being nice. (Afterward, you can fantasize about turning their question back on them: “How much weight have you gained?” “How many times did you pee last night?”)
You can also try to avoid questions altogether by being more inconspicuous. “I got in the habit of bringing my laptop to meetings and keeping it propped open in front of me so people might not notice I’m pregnant,” says Taryn, a new mom in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Pregnancy brain is a real thing. Your brain is actually rewiring itself for motherhood. That, combined with exhaustion, the distraction of preparing for a new baby and the stress of getting everything done before maternity leave, can make you feel like a shadow of your formerly with-it self. When I was pregnant with my son, I showed up at work one day with my dress inside out. I could barely dress myself, let alone avoid mistakes on my work! Take the time to check over your work twice. “Your body is really busy building a baby and not so busy paying attention to semicolons,” Daley says.
The best way to prevent foot swelling is to change your position often and walk around throughout the day, but most of our jobs aren’t designed to let us do that. To minimize swelling, limit your salt intake and prop up your feet when you can, if you have a desk job. If you work standing in one spot, ask if you can sit on a tall stool for part of the day instead. If not, keep your legs moving as best you can. Walk in place, do calf raises–anything to get your blood flowing.
No matter where you work, take regular, short walks. If your feet are total sausages, consider support hose, even though they’re not the most stylish. “Support hose can make a big difference,” Greenfield says. “Get the grandma kind—not just what you find in the average maternity store.”
Don’t be shocked if you go to the bathroom, and then need to pee a second time before you’ve even left the room. There will be a lot of bathroom breaks. Completely empty your bladder every time you go (it may help to lean forward a bit while you pee). And if you’re trying to keep from drawing attention to frequent bathroom trips, multitask: “Combine your trip to the bathroom with other things you need to do,” says Greenfield, such as getting printouts off the printer or meeting with a coworker across the office.
I started a new job when I was five months pregnant, and it went a little bit like this: “Nice to meet you. (phhhpppptt…); I’m excited to be working with you too (thhhllppttt…).” As Ricciotti puts it, “Globally, pregnancy is a very constipating condition,” which, yep, can mean more gas. Keep your sense of humor—you’re going to need it. Also, avoid gas-producing foods, like beans and broccoli, or anything new in your diet your body isn’t used to, Greenfield says. For example, some women start drinking more milk while they’re pregnant, which can lead to excess gas.
Whether you work at home, in an office, in your car or on your feet, your back will probably hurt. Ricciotti says back pain is her patients’ number one complaint. Her favorite advice is to prop up a foot. (Just one.) “Putting one foot on a little foot stool changes your posture and you’re not frozen in one position. Get one knee at a time above the hips,” she says. “Also, get up once an hour to walk—it loosens stiff, sore muscles.” If you walk all day, wear supportive shoes (yes, even if they’re not cute). We also highly recommend asking your partner for a good massage at the end of the day.
I was so nervous that my water would break at work, I kept an absorbent “puppy pad” in my desk drawer. But, like most moms, my water didn’t actually break until I was in the hospital. “Only 10 percent of women break their water before they go into labor,” Greenfield says. So your odds are really good that you won’t leak amniotic fluid all over your office chair. Of course, you want to calm your fear, so it’s okay to keep a change of clothes and a thick maxi pad at work. But remember: First-time labor is usually long and slow (not at all like you see in the movies). If you start having contractions at work, you’ll likely have time to head home and hang out awhile before you need to go to the hospital.
And then you’ll have a baby, and it will all have been worth it.
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