Know your rights, manage your symptoms and stop stressing!

Often concerned with the logistics of maternity leave, moms-to-be can overlook the eight months they will spend at work, while pregnant, before they have their baby.

“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 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:

1. Know your rights

It is 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 the legislation and codes that provide guidelines for tasks that women cannot be expected to perform while pregnant, such as heavy lifting and exposure to chemicals.

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2. Manage your symptoms

Morning sickness, pregnancy brain and pregnancy bladder all have an impact on your productivity. Women could 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.

3. 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 during your lunch hour, stretch and breathe deeply to help reduce your stress.

4. Speak to your boss

Although there is no provision in South African 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 provision 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.”