Growing a human is no joke. Yes, it’s a time for glowing and excitement, but it’s also often filled with uncomfortable symptoms. How you’re feeling will vary depending on where you’re at in your pregnancy. Dealing with pregnancy symptoms while at work can make things even more difficult.
In the first trimester, you may be trying to handle pregnancy symptoms at work while keeping your pregnancy a secret. As your pregnancy progresses, you may be trying to manage pregnancy symptoms at work while dealing with resentment or frustration from coworkers.
Then there’s also all the baby prep and planning that can be hard to get to when you’re working full time. Ah! Trust me. I know the struggle. I was a full time 3rd grade teacher while pregnant with N. A job that required me to be “on” in every sense of the word for the entire day.
Let’s learn some tips and tricks to help you handle pregnancy symptoms at work. From handling morning sickness at work, to swollen feet, to general exhaustion and discomfort, I’ve got you covered.
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Handling First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms at Work
Let’s start at the beginning. The first trimester is definitely known as a time when you may be feeling really sick, tired, and rundown. First trimester pregnancy symptoms are some of the worst. What’s more, you don’t have the benefit of the doubt that a giant belly provides in the third trimester to excuse you.
Many women wait to announce their pregnancies until after the 13th week, this means while you’re dealing with symptoms like morning sickness, constipation, frequent urination, and exhaustion, you’re probably trying to do it without disclosing what’s really going on.
Choose a confidante early on
This first tip is one that stems from personal experience. When I was pregnant with N, I had pretty severe nausea from week 7 to week 23. It was rough. Because I was a teacher, it meant that I needed to be present and interactive all day long.
I highly recommend choosing a trusted co-worker to share your news with. Someone who can have your back, cover for you, or step in when you need to step out (literally) at the drop of a hat if you’re not feeling well.
Why I shared my pregnancy with a trusted coworker at 8 weeks
It was essential that I told someone about my pregnancy early on in order to get the support I needed. I needed to be able to run out of the room at a moment’s notice for the bathroom or just to get some fresh air.
After some deliberation, I decided to share my pregnancy with my co-teacher at just 8 weeks. I hadn’t even told my family yet! I reasoned that in the event of a miscarriage, I would also appreciate having a shoulder to lean on and source of support at work, and with that I spilled the beans.
Here are my top tips to handle morning sickness at work:
- Sea Sick Bands – these are a natural anti-nausea option that work on the premise of acupressure. You wear them around your wrist and many mamas report a huge decrease in the intensity of their morning sickness. With long sleeves, a sweater, or blazer these are possible to hide. If you have a more private office, wear them when you are alone and remove them for meetings or interactions.
- Strong Mint Gum – this was my go to during my first trimester. Really strong mint gum helped keep my nausea at bay, and also helped to mask other intense smells around me which would trigger my gag reflex. Make sure to often switch out to fresh piece.
- Keep your stomach full – letting your stomach get too empty, or getting too hungry definitely magnifies morning sickness. Set a reminder on your phone to snack on something every hour or two. Keep it bland. I lived on instant oatmeal packets for lunch during my first trimester.
- Preggie Pop Drops – SO many mamas swear by these little sour candies. They provide instant relief when you feel a surge of nausea coming on. Because they’re small, you can stash them everywhere and anywhere you might need some relief.
- Hot Tea – Sipping on tea can really help calm your nausea. Peppermint and ginger herbal teas are known to soothe nausea. There are also special teas out there formulated to help with morning sickness. Pink Stork Morning Sickness Tea is one that I seriously wish I had tried. I’m an avid tea drinker anyways and am bummed I didn’t know about this!
- Emergency Bathroom Kit – Listen, even with all the stops pulled out, morning sickness sucks, and you may find yourself puking at work. Might as well be prepared. Have a “go bag” so to speak ready to grab and bring with you to the bathroom. That way, if you do get sick at work, you can get yourself cleaned up and composed. Make sure it has: a hair tie, 2 plastic bags (one for soiled clothes, one in case you don’t make it), a change of clothes (or at least shirt), mouthwash/tooth brush, and face wipes.
Don’t be afraid to use sick time or shift your schedule
I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who never used my sick time unless I literally couldn’t get out of bed. You know what, if there was ever a time, pregnancy is the time to be a little selfish. Don’t be afraid to take a sick day on a particularly rough day.
Maybe consider coming in late or leaving early if you don’t want to miss the whole day. If your work day is flexible, maybe you can shift your entire schedule for the time being. For example, if you’re always sick in the morning, could you work 11:00am-7:00pm instead?
Whatever the case may be, I’m here to tell you, it’s okay to use your sick time on first trimester pregnancy symptoms. That’s why they are there!
Tips for handling other first trimester pregnancy symptoms
The first trimester will absolutely wipe out some mamas. Growing a baby is a lot of work, and you will feel extra tired as a result. While you may wish you could curl up under your desk for a few hours, there are some things you can do to help.
Get outside and take a brisk walk, or even do some walking around your office or work setting. Getting outside is ideal because the combination of fresh air and movement will leave you feeling more energized and ready to handle the rest of the day. If you can’t get outside, find some flights of stairs to walk up, or do some laps around the office. Any movement will actually help fight exhaustion. At least until you can get home and crash at 7:30 PM 😉
While it is recommended to cut caffeine down to less than 200 mg per day, you can be smart about it and get a pick me up while at work. I switched to green tea, which meant I could have a few cups throughout the day and still be under the 200 mg limit.
Find out what your provider recommends in terms of caffeine intake and how you might better distribute your intake to get a little boost during the day. I also found that green tea, following something to eat, was more agreeable with my nausea than coffee anyway.
Needing to Pee All. The. Time.
Okay, this symptom is a tough one to manage. Especially because it is so important to stay hydrated, and actually increase your water intake during pregnancy. This was one of those symptoms that made me glad my co-worker knew I was pregnant, because I was going to the bathroom every hour!
But Trina told me one tip that worked for her that I can’t wait to try. Use a belly wrap! They are also known as maternity/pregnancy support belly bands. Basically, it lifts and compresses your early pregnancy belly in such a way that it relieves some of the pressure on your bladder. This really helped her with the urge to pee so often.
Added bonuses? The support also saved her back and made working on her feet all day easier. We also love belly bands because they help keep your maternity pants up! Which is a common problem for most pregnant mamas.
Logistics of Handling Pregnancy in the Workplace
Pregnancy is a time of what seems like endless prenatal appointments. And appointments = time (usually in the work day) that you need to be somewhere else. The worst of it is that I feel like doctor’s offices are always running behind schedule, so you’re always gone longer than you anticipate.
Consider the aspects of pregnancy you can control
I didn’t use much sick time when it came to pregnancy symptoms, but I tried to use it for days when I really just couldn’t be there. Pregnancy symptoms aren’t within your control. And if you can’t work, you can’t work! That’s it.
However, prenatal appointments are an aspect of pregnancy you have some control over. My number one tip? If you don’t want to be away from work more than necessary, or don’t want to use precious sick time on appointments, schedule your appointments as far out as possible and get the first appointment of the morning.
By getting the first appointment of the day:
- You know you’ll be seen at your actual appointment time.
- The office won’t already be running behind due to late arrivals or appointments running over.
- This leads to easier planning on your part when it comes to letting coworkers and higher ups know how long you expect to be out of the office for each appointment.
- You also get the benefit of a clean and usually quiet office.
Connect with other working mothers in your work place
People in your work place who don’t have families of their own, aren’t women, or aren’t mothers, simply can’t always relate to what you’re going through. Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is, sadly, a thing. Supervisors may be less likely to present you with new opportunities and projects, and peers may resent all of the time you are taking off.
One of the best ways to combat this is to connect with other mothers in the workplace. Have some allies to lean on. Find out what it was like for them. Learn from their experiences and even strategize with them if possible about things like when to share your news and what to request during your leave.
Know your rights
Now is a good time to do some research, especially if you are facing some pregnancy discrimination or even feeling slighted or resented. Read up on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and your company’s policies on pregnancy and parental leave. If you are part of a union or have a trustworthy HR rep, you may also want to take up issues with them, too.
How sharing your news publicly might make a difference
Once you feel ready to share your news, consider the potential benefits of sharing widely. This might go against your instinct or wishes, but could benefit you. People may be more willing to offer a helping hand, empathize, or simply be more understanding if they can put two and two together that your new behaviors are due to pregnancy. Only you know what your work environment is like, but it is possible that sharing could be a positive.
Tips for Handling Second and Third Trimester symptoms at work
Hopefully your second trimester is going to be that time where you’re glowing and rocking your sweet maternity style. And while I certainly hope your third trimester is full of these things as well, third trimester pregnancy symptoms are no fun. Let’s find out the best ways to deal with them at work.
Exhaustion has a tendency to creep up again in the third trimester. This might be because it’s increasingly difficult to get a good night’s sleep, or because it’s just exhausting being this pregnant!
- Take steps to try to get more sleep at night. A body pillow can really make a world of a difference in getting comfy and supporting your belly and achy joints. I swore by the Snoogle.
- Get some fresh air. Stepping outside midway through the day can be energizing enough to power through the rest of the day.
- If your provider has indicated that small amounts of caffeine are okay, switch to tea instead of coffee so that you can spread out your caffeine intake over the course of the day. Most caffeinated teas have more than half the amount of caffeine as coffee.
- Try an energizing herbal tea. Okay, I’m not going to pretend this works as well as caffeine, but peppermint tea is known to be energizing and is perfect safe in pregnancy.
- Find time in your day to sit, put your feet up, and zone out. You’re definitely more than allowed 🙂
Third trimester swelling is so annoying and uncomfortable. It’s also a symptom that is totally magnified by time spent standing or sitting in one position.
- Try pregnancy compression socks or maternity compression stockings for swelling and pain relief. Wearing them all day really helped me keep swelling at bay.
- For swollen feet and ankles, treat them with a cold pack wrap during any breaks you may have or when you are home in the evening.
- Raise your feet above your hips. For example, prop them up on your desk to give them a break every hour or two if possible.
- Invest in wider, more supportive footwear. I LIVED in my supportive, BOBS memory foam shoes.
- Drink more water! It will help with fluid retention.
- Try massage, could be a fancy prenatal massage, but also just having your partner (or even rubbing your own) swollen ankles, feet and legs will really help
Achy Hips, Legs, etc.
- Again, supportive footwear will be key here!
- Give yourself breaks and chances to sit down and rest
- Keep a heating pad at work and apply to sore areas. I loved using my heating pad on my low back when I had a break. So heavenly.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals instead of a big “lunch break” while at work
- Keep Papaya Enzyme Chewables on hand. This is a natural heartburn reliever that worked so much better than the typical TUMS for me.
How to adequately prepare for baby while working full time
Another aspect of handling pregnancy symptoms at work, is actually outside of work. Because if you’re pregnant, you obviously know there is a lot to plan and do in preparation for baby. This is especially true for working mamas because you need to coordinate things like maternity leave and choose childcare for your eventual return.
When you don’t have time to read the pregnancy books
I don’t know about you, but I definitely didn’t have time to read pregnancy books when I was pregnant and working. I barely made it to the end of the day half the time, and definitely crashed right after dinner. Luckily there are a lot of wonderful weekly pregnancy series that are free and delivered right to your inbox! No book reading required. Simply skim during your daily email checks.
The Mama Natural free weekly email series is probably my favorite, besides our own of course 😛 Each week you find out what’s going on with baby and mama, and learn a ton of natural remedies and tips to keep you more comfortable. You’re gonna love it.
And because we loved her series so much, we created our own free weekly series! Except instead of focusing on development and the more medical side, we tailored our series to be all about preparing and planning for baby. It really is a great complement to a more medical series (if I do say so myself) Enroll in this free series today 🙂
When you can’t commit to a regular, in-person childbirth class
As a pregnant and working mama, I know the last place you want to go at the end of the day is a childbirth class. It’s recommended to take your childbirth class in the third trimester, just when that exhaustion and discomfort really starts to ramp up. But let me tell you, doing a birth class really does make a difference in your confidence during birth and achieving the birth you desire.
What I wish I’d known? I could have done my childbirth class ONLINE! On my own schedule, without the uncomfortable chairs and inconvenient time. There’s actually a variety of online childbirth classes out there. Learn about your online childbirth class options and save yourself the headache!
When you are losing sight of exactly what needs to be planned for and prepared before baby arrives
Doesn’t it feel like there are a million ducks to get in a row before your baby arrives? All while dealing with your full-time job and (potentially) feeling like crap. We created The Nesting Planner as a means for mamas to feel totally organized and in control of their baby prep.
It will help you plan for all of the details like childcare, choosing a pediatrician, and budgeting for a new baby. You’ll also get organized checklists, worksheets, and planning sheets for all the other things there are to do.
When you feel like you have nothing to wear that looks professional and is actually comfortable
So, you’re probably sensing a theme here. But basically, I know that when you are working full time and dealing with pregnancy symptoms, you just don’t want to do ANYTHING after work half the time. And that probably includes shopping (the likely limited) maternity options in your area.
Insert Stitch Fix Maternity! Have beautiful maternity clothes sent right to your doorstep. They will be hand-selected by a stylist based on your personal style and requests. I made sure to request clothes that would grow with my belly and work postpartum to get the most bang for my buck. Buy just one item in your ‘fix’ and the $25 styling fee is waived 🙂
Ready to take on those pregnancy symptoms like a boss?
With these tips, I know you are ready to handle everything pregnancy throws at you, mama. You’ve totally got this.
And one last piece of advice:
I know it can be hard to say no or accept help when you want to be able to do it all. But pregnancy is a time when you should push yourself to accept offers and also know your own personal space and limits.
Pregnancy is a time to draw boundaries and really listen to your body. Don’t let your work environment, coworkers or society pressure you to do more than you are able or willing to.
Challenge yourself to accept that help with the heavy box or stack of books. Let people give you their seat, and don’t try to be a hero. At least not too hard anyways 🙂
Have you had an experience with dealing with pregnancy symptoms at work? A tip I may have forgotten? Feel free to chime in below! We love to hear from our readers.
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Alli Wittbold is a wife, mama, blogger, and online teacher. She feels passionate about connecting expectant mothers with childbirth class educators, and supporting them to achieve the birth they desire. After having her first baby delivered by a Certified Nurse Midwife, Alli is an advocate for midwifery prenatal care. She has learned so much about labor and delivery by attending and reviewing dozens of birth classes to help mothers learn and explore options. Alli co-authored the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook, resources she is proud to share with as many expectant and new mothers as possible. Read more about Alli.