Work and Travel During Pregnancy
Generally, women who are pregnant may continue to work during their pregnancy. Some women are able to work right up until they are ready to deliver, while others may need to cut back on their work schedule or stop completely before their due date. Whether you can work during your pregnancy or not depends on your health, the health of the baby, and the type of job that you have. Here are some factors to consider:
- Heavy lifting: If your job requires heavy lifting, standing, or walking, your doctor may recommend that you work fewer hours a day. This is especially true as you get closer to your delivery date.
- Exposure to environmental hazards: If you work in a job where you are exposed to hazardous or poisonous agents, you may need to temporarily change positions until after the baby is born. Some agents that may pose a threat to the health of the baby include:
Get information on possible toxic substances present at your workplace. Find out if these are at toxic levels and if the workplace is adequately ventilated and workers adequately equipped with protective devices. Radiation from computers, color TV's, and microwaves is called non-ionizing radiation and is not harmful.
- Hair colorants: When pregnant, it is important to avoid receiving hair treatments such as coloring since the chemicals can be absorbed by your hands.
- Chemotherapy medications (may impact health care workers such as nurses and pharmacists)
- Lead (workers in lead smelting, paint manufacturing, printing, ceramics, glass manufacturing, pottery glazing and battery manufacturing; toll booth attendants; and people working on heavily traveled roads)
- Ionizing radiation (X-ray technicians, some physicists and researchers)
- Stress: All people experience mental and physical stress as part of life. Too much stress, however, may cause various symptoms such as headaches, depression, and weight gain. Stress may have an impact on how well your body can fight off infection or disease. While you are pregnant, stress should be minimized to the best of your ability. Depending on how much stress your pregnancy adds to your existing load, you may need to get extra help from your spouse or someone else so you can get the rest you need.
Traveling is generally considered safe during pregnancy. The key to traveling while pregnant is to make sure you are going to be comfortable and as safe as possible. It is best to notify your doctor of your travel plans and ask for any recommendations specific to your pregnancy.
Whether you are traveling by plane, car, or train it is important to do the following:
- Continue to eat regularly.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Get up and walk around every hour or so to help your circulation and to keep swelling down.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that doesn't bind.
- Take crackers and juice with you to prevent nausea.
DO NOT take over the counter medicines or any non-prescribed medications without checking with your doctor. This includes medication for motion sickness or bowel problems related to traveling.
Foreign travel: If you are planning a trip out of the country, discuss your trip with your doctor. Plan ahead to allow time for any shots or medications you may need, and be prepared to take a copy of your prenatal record with you.
Traveling to high altitudes may cause problems during pregnancy, as your body and your fetus adjust to the lower air pressure and lower levels of oxygen. It’s generally best to let your body adjust to moderate altitudes – 6,000 – 8,000 feet – for a few days before going above 8,000 feet. Women with complicated pregnancies may want to avoid mountain-top excursions altogether.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the following when traveling by land, air, or sea:
- Land: Travel no more than 5-6 hours a day. Always wear your seatbelt. Place the lap belt under your abdomen and across your hips so that it fits snugly and comfortably. Put the shoulder strap between your breasts and across your shoulder. ALWAYS wear the lap shoulder strap when traveling while pregnant. The fluid-filled sac inside the uterus, which is further protected by muscles, organs, and bones, cushions the baby. Unless the mother has a serious injury in an accident, the baby will likely not be harmed. However, if you are in an accident you should always check with your doctor to make sure you and your baby are fine. e sure to take frequent breaks and walk around. This restores circulation in your legs and helps prevent blood clots.
- Air: Flying during pregnancy is generally safe. In the United States, pregnant women are allowed to fly up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. You should consider getting an aisle seat for more room and to make it easier to walk around and get to the bathroom. Wear layered clothing so you can have some control when there are temperature changes. Be sure to get up and walk at least once an hour, and drink plenty of fluids, to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs. Women with complicated pregnancies – those with high risk of preterm delivery, pre-eclampsia, or signs of poor fetal growth – may need supplemental oxygen when flying. Talk to your health care provider before you travel to see if you need additional oxygen. Air travel also exposes passengers to small amounts of cosmic radiation. This is rarely an issue for passengers, but flight attendants and pilots may be exposed to inappropriate levels of radiation.
- Sea: If you have never been on a cruise it may not be the best time to take one. Travel by sea may upset your stomach even if you're not pregnant, and may be more uncomfortable if you are. If you do decide to go on a cruise, check what medical care will be available to you and what emergency measures your cruise is prepared to employ.
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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