Working While Pregnant: Workplace hazards that can affect your unborn child

By Meghan Bailey on Jul 12, 2017

Many women desire and can continue to work during pregnancy until they give birth.  Some women may not understand the potential risks that could affect them or the health of their unborn baby. In speaking with an experienced OB/GYN, Dr. Lamarr Tyler, he noted common hazards women might face at work while pregnant.

Heavy Lifting

Muscles, ligaments and tendons become laxed during pregnancy. If your job requires heavy lifting, you may be at an increased risk of premature labor and low birth weight. Heavy lifting can also increase your risk of physical injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and falling down (which could increase one's risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy).

Stressful Work Environment

While it is common and a normal part of life to have some stress at work, a high-stress work environment during pregnancy can pose potential risks. Stress can often lead to poor eating habits and alterations in one's immune system, making it difficult to fight off infections during pregnancy. Moms may also suffer from sleep deprivation and behavioral disorders (anxiety, depression) because of heightened emotions during pregnancy.

Second-Hand Smoke

Risks associated with exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy include miscarriage, pre-term birth, neurologic development, learning or behavioral deficiencies in your child, as well as an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Poisons and Toxins

Many women work with and are exposed to common poisons or toxins that can pose harmful risks for your baby. These are some common chemicals that one should limit exposure to in pregnancy:

  • Hair colorants: When pregnant, avoid getting or giving hair treatments in your first trimester to minimize risk for birth defects.
  • Lead, mercury and pesticides
  • Radiation: Mothers-to-be who work as x-ray techs, or are around certain types of radiation, should limit exposure and wear protective clothing to shield the baby.
  • Chemotherapy drugs: While chemotherapy treats people with serious health concerns such as cancer, they are extremely strong drugs and could affect healthcare workers who are exposed to them.
  • Cleaning products: Whether at home or in an office, certain cleaning supplies may put a mother at risk for birth defects.  The occupations with the most regular exposure to solvents are housekeepers, nurses, nurse aides, hairdressers and chemists/biologists. Good ventilation is essential.

"It is important to understand potential work hazards before pregnancy,” said Dr. Tyler. “Your doctor should be able to help you understand the risks associated with your job and recommend preventative strategies to enable a healthy outcome for you and your baby."