Working or going to school during pregnancy
Many women continue working or going to school (or both) during pregnancy. Doing so can increase your activity level, help you focus on experiences other than your body's changes, and prevent you from feeling lonely.
Work or school activities that mostly involve sitting can usually be continued right up to the due date in an uncomplicated pregnancy. But if your work or school involves more than 3 hours of standing at a time or a lot of walking or demanding physical activity, discuss with your doctor how long you can continue this activity. It's likely that you will simply have to pay attention to how you feel as your pregnancy progresses and take precautions not to get overly tired.
- Avoid exposure to people who are sick.
- Avoid being around harmful substances, such as hazardous chemicals, fumes, or X-rays.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects, standing on ladders, and using or being near machinery that vibrates.
- Women with uncomplicated pregnancies can usually keep working until they go into labor. But women with jobs that require long periods of standing or repeated lifting, or who often have job-related fatigue, may be at a higher risk for poor fetal growth, preeclampsia, and preterm labor.1, 2
Cutting back or stopping work
Your doctor may want you to reduce or stop working at some point in your pregnancy if you have:
- A short or dilated cervix before 36 weeks of pregnancy (which are risk factors for preterm labor).
- A uterine malformation that could threaten the pregnancy, such as a bicornate uterus.
- High blood pressure or signs of preeclampsia.
- Fetal growth restriction.
- Twins or more (multiple pregnancy).
- A history of preterm birth.
- An excess of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), which can lead to preterm premature rupture of membranes (pPROM).
- A placenta problem, such as placenta previa or placenta abruptio.
- A chronic illness or other pregnancy complication that isn't responding well to treatment.
If you have to take time off from work because of pregnancy-related complications, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act may be of help to you. Under this law, if your employer offers medical disability benefits, you are entitled to the same insurance benefits, sick leave, seniority credits, and return-to-work privileges as employees disabled by other conditions.
If you intend to return to work soon after delivery, plan well ahead of time for your maternity leave and child care arrangements. Quality child care providers often have waiting lists. For more information about returning to work, see the topic Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Period.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2007). Antepartum care. In Guidelines for Perinatal Care, 6th ed., pp. 83–137. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Cunningham FG, et al. (2005). Prenatal care. In Williams Obstetrics, 22nd ed., pp. 201–229. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Last Updated: November 28, 2008