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Heading into the third trimester of your pregnancy is an exciting yet overwhelming time. As your due date is fast approaching you may not be sure how to handle managing your work commitments alongside the physical and emotional demands of your pregnancy.

We asked Clinical midwife and childbirth educator Lauren Brenton some key questions to help you when planning to work throug your third trimester.

1. What physiological changes will I go through that may affect my work? 

During the third trimester, your body is going through some significant physical changes which may impact your ability to work comfortably.

Some common changes include: 

  • Fatigue: As your baby grows bigger and your body is working hard to support your growing baby, you may find that you have increased fatigue. If you have low iron, you may feel this fatigue more intensely.

It is important to listen to your body and rest when you can to maintain your energy levels. It is also important to try and get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep at night, to help reduce your fatigue during the day.

  • Back pain and pelvic discomfort: As your pregnancy progresses, your centre of gravity shifts and the increased weight of the pregnancy can put strain on your lower back, thus causing lower back pain. Furthermore, the hormone relaxin causes the ligaments in your pelvis to loosen to allow your baby to descend further into the pelvis, thus causing an increase in pelvic pain.

This increase in lower back pain and pelvic pain may mean that you aren’t comfortable sitting or standing for long periods of time and may need to think about more comfortable sitting positions, such as sitting on a birth ball, or taking more regular breaks.

  • Swelling and fluid retention: During your pregnancy the increased blood volume, hormonal changes and pressure from your growing baby can lead to your body holding onto more fluid, thus causing swelling. Due to gravity, swelling is most common in the lower parts of your body such as your feet, ankles, and legs.
To reduce fluid retention and swelling increase your fluid intake, elevate your legs, use compression socks or tights from TheRY Group, do gentle exercise every day, make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes and try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Carpal tunnel: Carpal tunnel is caused by compression of the median nerve which runs through the wrist and is characterised by numbness, tingling and pain in the hands and fingers. Hormonal changes along with fluid retention can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel. To help improve symptoms of carpal tunnel, use compression wrist sleeves from TheRY Group as this will help encourage the fluid to move away from the wrist, try to keep your wrist in a neutral position and elevate as much as you can and try to do gentle hand exercises from a physiotherapist to reduce your symptoms.
  • Frequent urination: As you progress further in your pregnancy, the pressure on your bladder increases meaning that you need to pass urine more frequently. It can be helpful for you to plan your work schedule to allow time for regular bathroom breaks and make sure you are close to the bathroom.
  • Braxton hicks contractions: Braxton hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour. Think of them as practice contractions helping your body know how to contract effectively when you go into labour. These contractions can be uncomfortable and distracting but they’re not usually painful. Taking regular breaks and staying hydrated can help you work through these Braxton hicks contractions. 

2. What emotional changes should I be aware of? How can I best manage workplace stress?

As your pregnancy gets closer to your due date, your hormones for labour are gradually increasing. This means that you may feel more emotional, overwhelmed, or stressed towards the end of your pregnancy. You may feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety as labour nears. Remember that these emotions are normal and to seek support from loved ones and your healthcare professional to talk through any worries or fear.

Ways that you can manage workplace stress include:

  • Having open communication with your employer:  this can help you discuss any concerns you may have during your pregnancy and receive any support you may need.
  • Talking to your employer about decreasing your workload or responsibilities if they’re causing you stress: this will allow you to delegate tasks or ask for help when you need it. It is important to try and not take on too many responsibilities or set unrealistic expectations for yourself during this last trimester as this may increase stress.
  • Prioritise self-care: take regular breaks at work to rest and when you aren’t at work prioritise resting, relaxing, and doing activities that you enjoy. This can help to reduce stress and prevent burnout.
  • Have a support network: Having a supportive network of people both at work and in your personal life can help provide you with a sounding board, advice, and emotional support.

3. What is a high-risk pregnancy & how can I manage this in the workplace?

A high-risk pregnancy refers to a pregnancy where there are additional concerns or complications that may require additional monitoring and care. Some common reasons a pregnancy will be considered high risk include concerns that baby is not growing as expected, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and concerns about going into premature labour.

Some tips for how to manage your high-risk pregnancy and the workplace include:

  • Tell your employer about the complications: it is beneficial to share any conditions that have developed during your pregnancy By being open and honest with your employer it will help ensure your safety while you are at work and together you can come up with a safety plan. It is also essential that you keep your employer updated if anything changes or new concerns arise. This will allow them ample time to make any adjustments to your working environment.
  • Have regular prenatal check-ups:  anytime that you are concerned do not hesitate to contact the hospital even if you are at work. Your midwife or Obstetrician will be able to tell you what workplace modifications you may need to make. Your midwife or obstetrician can also give you a medical certificate explaining exactly what modifications are required.
  • Discuss the possibility of having a flexible work agreement: This may mean that you work from home, work shorter days, or have modified duties.

4. How will I know if I’m overdoing it. What are the warning signs?

During the third trimester, it is essential that you listen to your body and rest when your body is telling you to.

Look out for any of these signs to know if you may be overdoing it:

  • Feeling excessively tired even after you’ve rested may be a sign that you’re pushing yourself too much.
  • If you are having repeated episodes of shortness of breath or where you’re struggling to breathe, this is a good sign that you need to rest.
  • Severe or persistent back pain may be a sign that you’re pushing yourself too much and that you need to reduce the strain on your body.
  • Swollen ankles and feet can be common during pregnancy, but sudden or excessive swelling is a warning sign, and you should get checked.
  • If you are feeling faint or dizzy, this is another sign that you need to take it a bit easier and that you may need to increase your hydration.
  • A change in your baby’s pattern of movement is not usually a sign that you are overdoing it, however it is a sign that you need to be checked from your healthcare provider immediately.

5. When is it safe to work until while pregnant? When should I start maternity leave?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to determining when it is safe to work until during your pregnancy. How long you work until will depend on the type of work you do, your overall health, if you have any complications during your pregnancy and often the decision is a collaborative decision with the woman and her healthcare provider.

Most women with an uncomplicated pregnancy will try to work until around 34-36 weeks, with the aim of saving their maternity leave for when the baby is born. However, women with complications or a physically demanding job may aim to work until around 30 weeks. It is essential that you discuss your individual situation and health circumstances with your healthcare provider to plan around how when you should stop working.

Remember, your health and the health of your baby is your top priority. Making sure that you listen to your body, rest if you need to and allow adequate time to rest before your due date can help you prepare for the arrival of your baby.

Try to have open conversations with your employer about exactly what it is that you need from them so that they can accommodate you and your pregnancy. Always consult your healthcare provider for individualised care and advice when it comes to working during your pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique, so try not to compare your pregnancy with the pregnancies of your friends or colleagues.



Written by Lauren Brenton

Founder of One Mama Midwife Pty Ltd

Endorsed Midwife and childbirth educator.

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