From handling morning sickness to juggling meetings, challenges are expected if you’re working while pregnant. MH shares some tips on how you can manage them.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
During their pregnancy, some women may have the luxury to stay in the comforts of their own home throughout the whole nine or so months, others may not have the option to not go to work, while some may just want to continue working until their due date.
If you fall in the second and third groups, don’t fret. Working while pregnant doesn’t have to be a pain (not all the time, anyway). From having morning sickness to managing a busy schedule, here are some tips on how you can cope with it all.
It may be called “morning sickness” but nausea and vomiting can, unfortunately, happen at any time of the day during your pregnancy. The one upside is morning sickness typically doesn’t last throughout the whole pregnancy. “[Morning sickness] generally begins between the fourth to seventh week and usually settles by the 12th to 14th week, although it may last longer in some women,” says senior consultant, Dr Tan Eng Loy, Dept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, SGH.
Still, dealing with morning sickness can be a challenge during those first weeks of pregnancy. It’s hard and frustrating enough to deal with morning sickness at home, but when you’re at work, your busy schedule and the combination of different food smells in the office might make your morning sickness a whole lot tougher to handle.
The first thing you will need to cope with your morning sickness is some emergency supplies kept at your office desk. Keep a stash of plastic bags (for when you just can’t hold it in), a toothbrush and toothpaste (to freshen up your breath), and a bottle of mouthwash (if you really want to get that post-puke taste out of your mouth). Have a pack of breath mints handy too, so you can easily freshen up during a busy work day.
For some women, their morning sickness might cause them to have a lower appetite for food. If you’re in this camp and you’re worried you’re not eating enough, or if eating your normal serving of pre-pregnancy meals makes your morning sickness worse, Dr Tan recommends eating smaller meals more frequently. “A typical six-small-meals-a-day approach (breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and supper) might help in the case of a pregnant woman who cannot find the appetite to finish a meal that she would have managed before she got pregnant,” he says.
Natural remedies may also help ease your morning sickness. “Some women find eating or drinking ginger products such as ginger tea helpful,” says Dr Tan. For herbal teas with a bit more zing, try peppermint tea or lemon balm tea. The fresh smell of these teas might help ease your nausea too.
If your morning sickness is particularly severe, you may consider asking your doctor for medications to help reduce the symptoms. “Commonly prescribed medications for morning sickness include anti-sickness medications (e.g. cyclizine, prochlorperazine and metoclopramide) as well as Vitamin B supplements including Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Vitamin B6 is thought to help reduce the nausea of morning sickness, although the scientific evidence for this remains inconsistent. All of these medications are generally safe for the pregnant woman to consume,” says Dr Tan.
Another common pregnancy symptom, fatigue can make getting through your work day seem almost impossible. One way to deal with this is to get as much rest as you can throughout the day such as during your lunch time or tea break. Don’t overload yourself with too many tasks either. Figure out the important things that have to be completed first and leave the rest for another day.
This probably goes without saying, but ensure you’re getting enough sleep too. Fighting fatigue is hard enough; working on little sleep won’t make that fight any easier. “With the lure of television and in this day and age, the Internet and social media, it is always tempting to stay up beyond your sleeping hours. Sleep early if you can and leave the laptop/tablet computer out of the bedroom. If you can afford to, try to wake up slightly later as well,” advises Dr Tan.
When you’re experiencing fatigue, getting active is probably the last thing you want to do. But exercising can do wonders for a tired mind and body, especially if you’re bound to a desk all day. “It may sound ironic, but burning more energy through exercise may actually combat fatigue in pregnancy. The natural endorphins resulting from exercise contribute to a sense of well-being,” says Dr Tan. Consider joining a prenatal fitness class or simply take a short walk from time to time throughout your work day.
You’re carrying a growing foetus inside you, so body aches are fairly common for pregnant women. If you’re bound to a desk all day, it can worsen those body aches so it is important for you to do frequent, short exercises throughout the day. Physiotherapist, Yip Wan Hui, SGH recommends a few easy exercises you can do at work:
Transversus abdominus activation exercise: 10 x 10 sec holds
Sit with your back well-supported, draw your lower abdomen towards your spine without taking a breath in at the same time or holding your breath. “This exercise creates awareness of the muscle running across the lower abdomen. This muscle plays an important role in supporting the baby’s weight and reducing the load on the muscles in the lower back,” says Yip.
Backstretch: 3 x 20 sec holds (on each side)
While sitting on your chair – ensure both feet are apart (wider than hips) – slouch and lean diagonally forwards towards one knee, keeping both buttocks in contact with the chair.
Shoulder rolls: 10 times
Draw large circles backwards with your shoulders. This helps to relieve tension in your neck or shoulder muscles.
Juggling a Busy Schedule
Physical pregnancy symptoms aren’t the only things you have to manage while working. A busy schedule with meetings and deadlines – something you might not have had a problem with pre-pregnancy – can be harder to handle when you’re carrying a baby.
Talk to your employer and discuss the option of working out a better work schedule for yourself. An understanding employer might offer you more flexible working hours, or not delegating too many tasks your way.
If you’re overloaded with things on your plate and you don’t think you can handle all of them, don’t be shy to ask your colleagues for help. A lighter workload will allow you to take a break and you won’t feel so stressed out about finishing all your tasks.
If you find that you’re forgetting your daily tasks often, start your work day off by listing all the things you need to do for the day. Prioritise the important ones and put sticky notes around your desk as reminders. Ask your colleagues too if there is anything important on for that day, in case you’ve missed out any crucial meetings or deadlines.
For days jam-packed with meetings, stagger a set of alarms on your computer or phone – one alarm an hour before the meeting, another alarm 30 minutes before and so on. Again, don’t hesitate to rely on your colleagues here – just ask them to remind you of any meetings for the day.