Pregnancy Risks at Work and at Home

Hidden Workplace Hazards

You can be exposed to solvents by breathing in vapors, through skin contact, or by ingesting them (e.g., by eating or drinking in your work area or by not washing your hands before eating).

Since the risk of pregnancy problems is connected with prolonged exposure, minimizing your contact with chemicals by making sure your workplace is well ventilated, wearing appropriate protective equipment (including gloves and a face mask), and learning more about the chemicals you work with can help. Ask your employer for the Material Safety Data Sheets for the products you use, or contact OSHA at osha.gov.

There are other, less obvious workplace hazards, too. Though spending long hours in front of your computer won't hurt your baby, it may cause you some discomfort. Pregnant women seem more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which pressure on a nerve that passes through the wrist causes numbness, pain, tingling, and sometimes mild weakness of the hand and fingers. To help prevent it, adjust the height of your keyboard or chair so that your wrists are straight (not bent up or down) as you type.

If your job is physically demanding -- you're required to lift heavy objects or stand for more than three hours a day -- research shows you may be significantly more likely to deliver prematurely than women with more sedentary jobs. Fortunately, regular breaks can help reduce these risks, so talk to your doctor about how much rest you'll need throughout the day. Then discuss these guidelines with your employer. If your job conditions can't be changed, your provider can advise you about whether you should consider taking an earlier maternity leave than you may have planned.

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