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Tips for a safe pregnancy at work

Often concerned with the logistics of maternity leave, moms-to-be can overlook the eight months spent at work before their new arrival. World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which takes place on 28 April, aims to promote safe, healthy and decent work for all – this includes pregnant women, who are often overlooked in the workplace.

“Pregnancy itself can feel like a full-time job but most expectant mothers continue to work until the birth of their child, and many return to their desks while they are still breastfeeding,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and the Head of The Birthing Team, an affordable maternity care programme available in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Polokwane.

Manyonga shares some key pointers for pregnant women to take note of in their workplace:

Know your rights
It’s illegal to dismiss a woman because she is pregnant. Expectant mothers are protected by labour law and cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. Familiarise yourself with legislation and codes that provide guidelines for tasks that women can not be expected to perform such as heavy lifting and exposure to chemicals.

Manage your symptoms
Morning sickness, pregnancy brain and pregnancy bladder all have an impact on your productivity. Women can eat smaller healthier snacks throughout the day to keep their blood sugar stable and curb nausea. If you’re struggling to stay focused on work – set up daily task lists and take more frequent breaks.

Stop stressing
Stress has a major effect on the body. Physical activity not only helps boost your energy but can help you manage your stress levels. Take a brisk walk over your lunch hour, stretch and breathe deeply to help reduce your stress.

Speak to your boss
Although there is no provision in South Africa’s legislation that states when an employee needs to inform employers that they are pregnant, it is important to inform them in writing as early as possible. This ensures that they can advise you of any potential hazards in the work environment and begin making provisions for your safety. By law, your employer must change the working environment if it is ill-suited to your needs.

“Pregnancy in the workplace should be taken in a serious light by both the expectant mother and her employer,” says Manyonga. “Try and work with your employer to ensure that your working environment is as healthy and safe for you as it can be.”

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