Signs To Stop Working During Pregnancy: It’s Time To Relax 2023

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Medically reviewed by Ramakrishnan, G., Ph.D

signs to stop working during pregnancy

It’s natural to treat pregnant women with a little bit of care. In some ways, pregnant women do need extra consideration. However, it’s often said that pregnancy is not an illness or a disability. For many pregnant women, taking time off to sit just sit around the house and rest can be tough. So, what are the signs to stop working during pregnancy?

The truth is, remaining sedentary may be the last thing you want to do. Studies have consistently shown that staying employed while pregnant is perfectly safe. It’s more likely that keeping busy, moderate amounts of exercise and other aspects of working may actually be beneficial. 

With women now making up a little more than half the workforce in the US, there are more and more questions regarding how to balance work and life. 

Signs To Stop Working During Pregnancy?

There is no single answer to this question. It can depend on your job and your overall health. However, in general, women can continue working for the full term of their pregnancy. A number of studies have been done on this issue and the results tend to be consistent. Staying at work shouldn’t pose a risk[1] to either you or your baby.

Up until around 32 to 34 weeks of pregnancy, most women can physically manage their normal workload.

There are some jobs that are generally more hazardous, either because of the nature of the work, the work environment, or the substances involved. In those cases, an employer is generally obliged to find work for you that’s less hazardous[2].

Risk Factors

Staying at work may not always be a good idea. While studies have shown that work is a safe place for pregnant women, there are some things that can make it unsafe[3].

Physical Activity

A moderate amount of exercise is great and can improve the odds of having a healthy baby. However, a lot of physical activity[4] can have a negative impact. Certain types of activity can be particularly harmful.

Any position that includes lifting or carrying even moderate loads should be avoided. Climbing or any situation that might lead to a serious fall should also be avoided. 

Toxic Substances

In some jobs, the harmful substances will be obvious. Chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides have all been linked to problems during pregnancy or after birth. 

There are potentially harmful chemicals in some places you might not expect. Cleaning products, for example, should only be used in a well-ventilated area. Avoid wet paint, as the fumes have small amounts of harmful substances in them.

If you’re not sure whether something is toxic, speaking to your healthcare provider is a good idea. Businesses are also usually required to keep that sort of information handy and available to their employees.

Hazardous Environment

Sometimes just being in a particular space[5] can be bad for you and your baby. Loud or excessive noise[6] should be avoided. They can stress the mother out, which is never good. Loud noises can also potentially damage your baby’s developing ears.

Vibrations are also something to avoid. Extreme temperatures, for example working in a freezer or hot kitchen, should also be avoided. 

If you’re worried that your job may be dangerous, but aren’t sure, you can’t request a Health Hazard Evaluation[7]. This is a free service from the CDC that assesses the risks involved in a particular job and offers suggestions on how to reduce risk. 

Other Factors

We tend to focus on the health issues surrounding pregnancy, but there are other aspects that may be just as important. Maternity leave may not just affect your pregnancy, it can also have an impact on your life and finances.

It’s hard to avoid the topic of money when it comes to pregnancy. Being pregnant is super expensive. As a result, health insurance is a major consideration. However, taking maternity leave can sometimes impact your job status, and income, and therefore can also impact health insurance. 

In the US, health insurance is often linked to employment. There have been cases when a company, unable to find a position suitable for a pregnant worker, has let that worker go. The legality of doing so is perhaps debatable. However, it can deprive people of quality healthcare at a time when it is vital.  

Some companies have policies in place that may make taking time off during pregnancy less attractive. The US government mandates that companies offer 12 weeks of maternity leave. If you decide to start your maternity leave before your baby’s birth, many companies will require you to use all your sick and vacation time first

Sick and paid vacation time may be a lifesaver when you need to watch a sick kid or have a doctor’s appointment. Using it all up before your baby is even born may not seem like the best idea.

Additionally, federally mandated maternity leave is unpaid, so there’s no income during that period. As a result, putting off your maternity leave may not just be convenient, it may be a financial necessity. 

How Long Is Maternity Leave?

As we’ve mentioned, the US government requires businesses to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, during which their job is protected. This time isn’t necessarily for maternity leave. Instead, it’s called Family and Medical Leave[8] (FMLA), and can be used for pregnancy, childcare, or health issues.

It should be noted that you have to meet a couple of requirements before a business has to allow you FMLA. The most significant requirement is having worked for that business for about 12 months.

Individual states[9] may have more liberal policies. For example, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia all require paid time off. Other states have programs that attempt to help in other ways.

Can You Lose Your Job Due To Pregnancy?

While we said above that pregnancy is not a disability or illness, the law may not entirely agree in some cases. Federal law prohibits women from facing discrimination for being pregnant[10]. However, the question arises, how do we know when someone is being discriminated against?

It’s not as simple a question as it may seem. In the case of pregnancy, the law requires a business to offer all the same considerations to a pregnant woman as it would to someone with a temporary disability or illness. 

For example, if an ill person needs to miss work and the company accommodates them, the company must make similar accommodations for a pregnant woman. If a company would hold a position open for someone who is in the hospital, they have to do the same for a pregnant woman.

That also means that if the company does not make those sorts of accommodations for ill people, they also don’t have to make them for pregnant women. There are a few exceptions for that, such as the Federally mandated maternity leave of 12 weeks. All of that is spelled out in the Pregnancy discrimination act of 1978.

With that said, many businesses will do their best to make things easier for pregnant women. Talking with your boss[11] or the HR department is a great first step. Discussing things like doctor’s appointments, maternity leave, and other accommodations are soon as possible can often be helpful.

Balancing work, health, and financial pressures may be the hardest aspect of modern life. However, being pregnant doesn’t have to take time away from your job.


+ 11 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Sanford Health News. (2017). Is it safe to work up until my due date? – Sanford Health News. [online] Available at: https://news.sanfordhealth.org/womens/can-i-work-up-until-my-due-date/
  2. Eeoc.gov. (2016). Legal Rights of Pregnant Workers under Federal Law | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. [online] Available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/legal-rights-pregnant-workers-under-federal-law
  3. ‌Anon, (2021). What Workers Should Know – Reproductive Health. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/workers.html
  4. ‌Banerjee, B. (2009). Physical hazards in employment and pregnancy outcome. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, [online] 34(2), p.89. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781135/
  5. ‌womenshealth.gov. (2016). Staying healthy and safe | womenshealth.gov. [online] Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/staying-healthy-and-safe
  6. ‌Anon, (2021). Noise – Reproductive Health. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/noise.html
  7. ‌Anon, (2021). Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs). [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/
  8. ‌Dol.gov. (2021). Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) | U.S. Department of Labor. [online] Available at: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla
  9. ‌Ncsl.org. (2017). Paid Family Leave in the States. [online] Available at: https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/paid-family-leave-in-the-states.aspx
  10. ‌Eeoc.gov. (2021). Pregnancy Discrimination | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. [online] Available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/pregnancy-discrimination
  11. Marchofdimes.org. (2019). Being pregnant at work. [online] Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/being-pregnant-at-work.aspx

Medically reviewed by:

Sean Newton has nearly ten years of experience as a health and fitness writer, focusing on diet and its effects on your health. He also is an avid athlete and martial artist, specializing in bodyweight exercises and movement training. Together with an evidence-based approach to good health, his goal is to lay out the facts for readers, so they can make informed choices.

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