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Physically Strenuous or Hazardous Work During Pregnancy

Women are tough and they can do the work of any man, but your baby is not so tough right now. There are some jobs that can be too physically strenuous or toxic for a woman to continue throughout her pregnancy. These include…

Computer Work

In the 1980s, certain studies suggested a link between video display terminals (VDTs) and problem pregnancies. The media picked up the story, and it persists today. But since that time, many more studies have been conducted on the connection between working in front of a computer screen all day and birth defects and miscarriages. So far, there seems to be no relationship between the two. The level of radiation emitted from a computer is less than the level you receive from sunshine. Panic is certainly not called for.

But if you are still worried about radiation from your computer, you can take some steps to make yourself feel better.

Pregnancy Facts

The Supreme Court recently ruled that women of reproductive age could not be barred from working with materials that might be hazardous to a fetus. This ruling came in response to a rule formulated by a company that manufactured batteries. The rule banned all women from handling certain materials known to carry a risk of causing birth defects. Women's groups opposed the ban because they feared it would be used to exclude all women from higher-paying jobs that involve physical labor or other potential hazards to pregnancy. If you want to avoid these kinds of jobs during your pregnancy, you'll have to speak up and say so.

The real danger in using a computer all day comes from the physical strain of sitting. If you work at a computer terminal, you might be prone to eye, neck, wrist, arm, and back strain, especially during pregnancy. To avoid these problems you should take frequent breaks; find excuses to walk around every once in a while (frequent trips to the bathroom are the perfect cover). While sitting at your desk, do some stretching exercises to keep your muscles from cramping. Rotate your ankles. Shrug your shoulders up, back, and down. Roll your head forward and around. Bend forward at your waist, tense your back muscles and relax. Sit up tall and throw your shoulders back. Any of these simple moves will help you feel more comfortable.

Manufacturing

To judge your safety on the job, you need to know what chemicals you are exposed to each day. In fact, by law you have the right to this information, and your employer is obliged to tell you. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists a number of substances the pregnant women should avoid, including the following:

Aluminum Dimethyl sulfoxide
Alkylating agents Ethylene oxide
Arsenic Lead
Benzens Lithium
Carbon monoxide Organic mercury compounds
Chlorinated hydrocarbons Polychlorinated biphenyls

Your boss or union representative might be able to help you determine if you are at risk in your present position. You can also get useful information from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Their online article "The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health" found at www.cdc.gov/niosh/99-104.html is very informative. If you find that your job might endanger the health of your baby, you can either transfer to another position or take an early leave, if you can swing it financially.

Health Care

Working in the health-care industry as a doctor, nurse, dentist, veterinarian, or lab or diagnostic technician puts you in constant contact with germs and diseases. Of course this is an inevitable part of the job, which you knew from the outset, but now that you're pregnant, you need to look at your work from the point of view of your baby. Exposure to certain toxic chemicals used for sterilization of equipment, anesthesia gases that leak from tubes in the operating room (or even the exhaled breaths of recovering patients), radiation used for diagnostic and treatment purposes, as well as infections from patients with hepatitis B and AIDS can be harmful to the fetus. Take a close look at what you are exposed to each day and talk to your doctor about any safety concerns. If you're worried about the health of your baby, ask to be reassigned to a safer position or consider taking an early leave of absence.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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