Work Your Bump
Work Your Bump

Discovering you’re pregnant is an exciting time, but how do you manage your bump with your workload? ELEANOR FITZSIMONS offers first-hand advice on the practicalities and legalities of working through your pregnancy.

You’ve just found out you’re pregnant and an exciting new future lies ahead, but chances are you still have to get up and go to work every morning for the next seven months or so. As your body changes and you plan for the future, there are ways of making working life more pleasant and comfortable.

Know your rights
Don’t panic. It’s essential that you minimise stress during your pregnancy and worrying about how your career may be affected is the last thing you need. Maternity legislation in Ireland is relatively strong so you’re well protected. New mothers are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks’ additional unpaid maternity leave. However, if your job exposes you to risk – handling harmful materials for example – do talk to your HR department immediately. Some women, airline pilots for instance, may not be able to continue to work whilst pregnant and may be redeployed or allowed to take paid leave.

You are fully entitled to return to your job after maternity leave. If for some reason this is not practical, your employer must provide a suitable and equivalently paid alternative. Investigate the policy in your organisation and compare experiences with co-workers who have been down this road already. Although not obliged to, some employers choose to top up State maternity benefit. If this is not the case, you’ll need to plan for any potential drop in income.

It’s worth noting that if pay or conditions improve whilst you’re on leave, then you are entitled to these benefits on return. You are also entitled to your full allocation of annual leave and all public holidays, and to take reasonable time off for maternity-related appointments such as hospital visits. Women generally take two weeks of their allotted leave before their due date and the remainder afterwards, but you may wish to finish earlier. You’ll find all the information you need at under the section on maternity leave.

Letting your boss and colleagues know
You don’t have to tell anyone until you feel ready and most women wait until at least the end of their first trimester. However, if you’re suffering badly with morning sickness or having a difficult pregnancy, you may want to announce it earlier.   
 Realistically, it’s almost impossible to focus on work and care for a newborn. You can play an important role in finding and training any temporary replacement or organising for your duties to be covered in your absence. Once you agree a plan with your boss, you can write a letter outlining your understanding of the arrangement. Make a copy for HR and keep a copy yourself.

Coping with morning sickness
One of life’s great misnomers! ‘Morning sickness’ can strike at any time of day, making working life very difficult. Three-quarters of pregnant women suffer from some degree of pregnancy-related sickness and, although the lucky ones may merely experience a little nausea, for some it can cause real misery. It helps to identify and avoid anything – a particular food or smell – that triggers feelings of nausea. Some women find it helpful to keep a packet of plain, dry crackers in their desk to nibble on regularly.
Fresh air really helps so sit by a window or pop outside regularly for some air. Acupressure bands can be very effective. If you are vomiting it’s helpful to keep mouthwash and baby wipes in your desk so that you can freshen up regularly.

Create a pregnancy-friendly work space
Assuming that you don’t work in a particularly hazardous environment (if you do, then tell your employer immediately), you can comfortably adjust to your new condition by making a couple of minor adjustments.

It’s recommended that pregnant women elevate their feet as much as possible, so pop a small stool under your desk. Many pregnant women suffer from aches and pains in the small of their back, and a cushion or back support will make your chair more comfortable.

If you’re feeling the heat, install a desk fan and invest in a cooling and hydrating facial spray. Towards the end, feet and legs may become swollen and uncomfortable. Use a refreshing foot spray or cooling leg gel – there are plenty specifically developed for pregnant women and new mothers. You could also bring a set of wooden foot rollers into the office for a relaxing foot massage.