Am I putting my fetus at risk?
July 12, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Early pregnancy and physical labour on the job...

This is my first pregnancy (yay!), and so far, I'm about 6 weeks along. I found out in the middle of my vacation, and go back to work tomorrow. I have one shift before my first prenatal appointment.

Just wanted to get a sense of how careful I should be during that shift based on the high level of physical labour. The details:

I'm 5'4" and about 105lbs, 24 and healthy.

I work in an artisan bakery, and my job includes:

-A lot of heavy lifting (50+ pounds)
-Going up and down stairs, with anything from 5-25lbs (possibly more) of awkward stuff
-Often standing my entire shift (8-10h)
-Pushing and pulling heavy loads (50+ pounds)

Now obviously, I'm fairly physically fit already, but I'd like to know what limits I should make with my boss from the get-go. I'm not opposed to informing him tomorrow, despite how early it is, as I'll be leaving my job in Sept/Oct to move to another city.

Am I putting my fetus at risk by going about my regular routine at work? Should I ask to do work that doesn't require such strain? Should I perhaps request switching to an entirely different department that requires much less bending, lifting, pushing, pulling, standing and running up and down?

I know that legally my employer has to make allowances for my pregnancy, but I feel like being this early on might be kind of a 'grey area'. Especially considering there isn't always less physical work to be done within my department.

Suggestions? Anecdotes?

I will say again that my first prenatal appointment is in a matter of days, I just wanted to get some feedback about my concerns for the meantime. I intend to bring a nice list of questions for my doctor, so not to worry, all you NotDoctors.

I will probably err on the side of caution anyway, for my own comfort, but it would help to have a little info to back up my request when I talk to my boss.

posted by sunshinesky to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Don't worry. There is nothing that you can do in terms of physical labour that will affect your pregnancy in the early stages. Your work shouldn't be a problem. In fact keeping up your physical fitness is a good thing! The only time physical exertion may cause problems is in the third trimester if there is some abnormality with the placenta (e.g. placenta previa). Congratulations!
posted by madokachan at 9:00 AM on July 12, 2009

Am I putting my fetus at risk by going about my regular routine at work?
Assuming you are in good health and the pregnancy is not high risk or that there's anything out of the ordinary about your pregnancy, I would say the answer is no. But only your doctor and YOU can really determine what the appropriate level of physical activity is. IANAD.

Really, I'd be more on the look out for your own level of comfort. A lot of women get super tired in the early stages of pregnancy and then there's always the possibility of morning sickness. Morning sickness is not limited to the morning. You'll just have to wait and see how the pregnancy affects you. You could be fine, you could be exhausted after a flight of stairs. We all react differently.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2009

I'm exhausted just sitting here, actually! I haven't been sleeping well, and that will only get worse when I'm trying to get some shut eye during the hot daytimes again, once work starts. Hooray overnights...

Haven't had any morning sickness to speak of, just a bit of manageable nausea, so that shouldn't really affect how I'm feeling at work. Strong smells, on the other hand seem to have an increasingly nauseating effect on me, which of course I'm surrounded by in a food environment.

Thanks for the feedback so far!
posted by sunshinesky at 9:12 AM on July 12, 2009

Why not just ask your boss for a light day until you've had a chance to talk with your doctor? Chances are really good that you and the baby would be just fine. In the huge, vast, majority of miscarriages, it had nothing to do with what the mother did (or didn't) do. And remember that in much of the world, for all of history, women have continued to do physical labor before they went into labor. But I'm sure your boss (and you) would rather err on the side of caution until you've had a chance to get checked out.
posted by barnone at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2009

Also: get some hard ginger candies and chews (Ginger People) and some hard candies in a variety of flavors -- peppermint, sour things, sweet things, vaguely chewy things. Preferences are different for everyone, and even vary day-to-day. But it's often helpful to have your mouth and nose on another taste than whatever smell is bothering you.

And eat lots of small, frequent meals during your long shift -- nuts, crackers, cheese, etc. -- so you don't get hungry, which often leads to the heaves and gross feeling for pregnant women. The goal is NOT to get super starving (which can lead to "but nothing smells/tastes/feels good, compounding the problem) -- the goal is to prevent extreme hunger, which happens faster during pregnancy and physical labor.
posted by barnone at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know you said that your appointment isn't for a few days, but why not give your doctor a call and ask. This is just the kind of question (i.e. a how-do-these-things-work question whose answer isn't based on a physical exam) that I ask my doctor on the phone. Call the office before work, explain that you need to speak to your doctor before your appointment and have him/her call you back.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:48 AM on July 12, 2009

If I were pregnant and not ready to tell my workmates, I might say I'd twinged my back or pulled a muscle or something vague like that, so that I could intermittently beg off of some of the heavier lifting as I saw fit. They'll forgive you when they hear the real reason, later.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:15 AM on July 12, 2009

I'm typing this with my two-month-old baby in my lap.

I'm also a baker, and worked through to the thirty-seventh week of my pregnancy. You should be fine to carry on for now - your fetus is still very tiny and well protected. If you're leaving your job in September or October, that means you'll just be starting your second trimester. For me, the second trimester was when I started noticing my joints loosening up (especially in the pelvic area, making walking feel funny), and that's when I would start to be more careful, more for yourself than the baby.

The third trimester, if you're still working as a baker, is when you should cut back on the heavy lifting / carrying. Listen to your body to set your limits. I know that by 30 weeks I was so tired from just carrying all that weight on my belly, that hauling 50 lb bags of flour up and downstairs was no longer an option. Luckily my boss and coworkers were very understanding & accommodating.

My advice would be to protect your back - do stretches during your shift to relieve the pressure - and get used to not using your abdomen to help balance / carry things. Other than that, get lots of rest, make sure to stay well hydrated, and congratulations!
posted by meringue at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2009

Thank you! You picked up on something I didn't mention, which is that I often balance/carry things against my lower abdomen. Looks like I'll have to quit doing that, as I had planned.

I'm going to set out on the town one of these days in search of some ginger candies. Sounds delectable! Now if only I could stop foraging for salty food... I swear I could probably eat spoonfuls of salt if I thought it would do me any good.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2009

Dude...tell everyone at work, and TAKE the chivalry, sexism, whatever you want to call it that will allow non-preggers people to pick up the 50 lbs bag of flour.

I totally agree that doing the labor you listed will (probably) not have any effect on your pregnancy. But from what I've seen, pregnant women tend to do things in their late pregnancy that they felt comfortable doing in their early pregnancy. Its ONLY after a pulled muscle, an "OUCH", or something worse that they realize "OK...I am the kind of pregnant that I can't do that stuff".

Better safe than sorry.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2009

Oh...and congratulations on your pregnancy!
posted by hal_c_on at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2009

Oh...and I'm an HR professional. And if asked to decide on issues regarding pregnant women, my first instinct is to say "Whatever preggers wants...preggers gets" (within reason, of course). Not wanting to work with weights that are 25% of your weight or more is TOTALLY reasonable from MY HR perspective.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:07 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing that helped me in my early pregnancy was the ability to take a slightly longer lunch and go take a nap at a friend's apartment. I worked an extra 15-30 minutes at the end of the day to make up for it.
posted by metahawk at 6:14 PM on July 12, 2009

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