& Workplace Safety
You’ve come a
long way baby – at least when it comes
to being pregnant on the job
normal to fret over factors that might affect
your baby’s health, but it’s important
to separate fears from fact, particularly when
considering workplace hazards during pregnancy.
While many jobs are perfectly safe, you may
need to be extra vigilant about following safety
practices or ask for modified duties. Here’s
what to look for and what to do about it.
Long-term or repeated exposure to organic solvents,
such as benzene, and heavy metals like lead
can increase the chance of malformations and
dysfunction in brain development, says Gideon
Koren, a paediatrician and toxicologist, and
director of the Motherisk Program at Toronto’s
Hospital for Sick Children.
Battery and paint factories, automobile plants,
darkrooms, gas stations, pottery studios, commercial
measures: Ask if you’re uncertain whether
the chemicals in your workplace pose problems
during pregnancy. You’re also entitled
to more frequent blood tests to ensure lead
levels don’t exceed certain limits. Use
recommended gear such as masks, suits and fume
Lengthy work hours and high stress levels may
boost the odds of early labour.
Assembly lines and other workplaces that limit
a worker’s sense of control; high-pressure
occupations such as medicine and law.
measures: Try to wrap up your workday within
eight hours, and take a 10-minute breather every
so often. During lunch or dinner break, enjoy
your meal away from your workspace, and sneak
in a snooze if possible. Delegate or share stressful
tasks, or talk to your employer about easing
back on your responsibilities. Combat stress
hormones by practising relaxation techniques
such as deep, measured breathing and exercising
regularly. A daily half-hour walk can work wonders!
Blood and bodily fluids can transmit dangerous
infections to you and your baby. But a few ordinarily
harmless infections (for example, chicken pox
and fifth disease) that can be picked up through
more casual contact can pose a risk of miscarriage
or developmental disability.
Dialysis clinics, daycares, preschools, laboratories,
hospital laundries, doctors’ offices.
measures: Pay attention to regular safety precautions.
If unsure whether you’re immune to chicken
pox or fifth disease, talk to your doctor.
Exposure to certain levels of ionizing radiation
or radioactivity can increase the risk of malformations.
X-ray clinics, laboratories, nuclear medicine
facilities, veterinary clinics.
measures: Your employer should provide new dosimeters
more often than normal and perform more frequent
readings. Faithfully follow safety procedures.
Ask someone else to hold animals during X-rays.
Demands (Standing, Sitting, Lifting)
Physical changes may up the odds of falls and
injuries. Long hours of sitting can cause back
pain; swelling may contribute to carpal tunnel
syndrome. Very physically demanding jobs and
those involving prolonged periods of standing
may increase risk of premature labour.
Warehouses, factory lines, retail outlets, banks,
farms, hospitals and home health care services,
measures: Take frequent breaks: Put your feet
up if you’ve been standing, or go for
walks if your job is sedentary, suggests Teresa
Tales, a physiotherapist at St. Joseph’s
Health Care Centre in London, Ont. If you’re
stuck behind a counter or cash register, ask
if you can alternate between standing and sitting
on a stool. Use proper body mechanics when lifting,
and keep loads under 25 pounds, particularly
during your second and third trimester. If you
develop back or wrist pain, consult a physiotherapist,
who may suggest a special back support or keyboard,
notes Chandra Farrer, a physiotherapist at Sunnybrook
and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre
you have any questions about workplace safety,
don’t hesitate to ask your occupational
health specialist, caregiver, employer or union
representative; or contact one of the organizations
listed in Work Safety Resources, above.
have the right to get the appropriate information.
Oftentimes, they are scared to death for no
reason,” Koren concludes.