Working while pregnant can be a positive experience – and also physically, emotionally and financially challenging. Here are some practical tips for managing pregnancy symptoms, working through pregnancy and planning your return to work.

Managing pregnancy symptoms at work: tips

Working while pregnant – especially during the early months – can be tricky if you’re going through morning sickness and feeling really tired.

Here are some tips that might help you manage these pregnancy symptoms.

At work

  • Take regular breaks if you can.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
  • Eat small, regular, healthy meals and snacks. Drink plenty of water.
  • Do five-minute mindfulness or breathing meditations to recharge your energy levels.

At home

  • Rest when you can and go to bed early if possible.
  • Eat a lighter breakfast than usual.
  • Try baths with Epsom salts or some essential oils. 

Working through pregnancy: tips

Here are some things you can do to help make working while pregnant a comfortable and positive experience.

Making things easier

  • Consider what could make your life easier at work – for example, travelling to work outside of peak hour, having a temporary car space or working from home.
  • Try to plan meetings so people come to you, or set up conference calls.
  • If you’re a pregnant casual worker, it’s OK to let your manager know what your ideal working hours are. For example, if you work most efficiently after 11 am when morning sickness has eased, your employer might be able to give you these hours, especially if you’ll be more productive at these times.
  • Think ahead about how to respond to tricky situations. For example, people might comment on your belly or even touch your belly. It’s OK to tell people not to do this if it makes you uncomfortable – it’s your body.

Organising things at work

  • Depending on your job, you might need to let your colleagues, workmates and/or clients know how your role at work might change.
  • Start planning a handover by noting the parts of your job that you’ll need to give to others when you’re on leave. Schedule training and handover activities well in advance so you don’t find yourself doing too much or getting stressed before going on leave.
  • If things don’t go to plan and you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell your manager and discuss ways to manage your workload.

Going to pregnancy appointments

  • Schedule medical appointments and time off in advance, where possible.
  • If you’re a casual worker, you might be able to organise your pregnancy appointments at times you’re not working. Or you might be able to work public holidays (which usually offer a higher rate of pay) to make up for income you lose when you take time off for appointments.
  • Try not to feel guilty about taking time off for appointments or taking sick leave when you’re unwell. You’re entitled to it. 
Whether you’re a permanent or casual worker, it’s a good idea to find out more about your pregnancy and work rights and entitlements.

Planning your return to work

Many working parents say they wish they’d thought more about preparing for their return to work before going on parental leave. This can make the experience of returning to work more positive and less stressful.

Planning ahead is great, but bear in mind that your ideas and plans might change after you give birth. You might want to stay at home longer than you first thought, or return to work earlier than planned. There are rules about these things, so you’ll need to discuss them with your employer. It’s a good idea to give yourself time to think, talk and negotiate.

Here are some tips to help you plan your return to work while you’re pregnant.

Work and family considerations

  • Think about your career goals, family arrangements and work-life balance. This can help you work out your ideal return to work, which you can discuss with your employer.
  • Talk with your partner, if you have one, about when you might like to return to work and what this means for your partner and family.
  • Talk with your partner if you have one about whether your partner might take some time off work after baby is born, and about how you plan to share the child care when you return to work.

Practical matters

  • Think about your financial situation. For example, it can be useful to calculate in advance how long you can afford not to do paid work. You might be able to get some government parenting payments.
  • Look at child care options, if you plan to use child care. Depending on where you live and the type of child care you want, you might need to put your child’s name on a waiting list before your baby is born. You could also look at sharing a nanny or ask about grandparents caring for your child.
  • Consider ways to make your daily and weekly routine easier, like pre-cooking and freezing lunches, ordering groceries online, or having a child care pick-up roster. 

Work arrangements

  • Check your employment contract and find out what your rights are.
  • Talk with your employer about how to stay in touch with your workplace during your leave. Many employers have informal arrangements (including intranet access) or more formal events like return to work seminars. You can do up to 10 days paid work while on leave if this work is to help you ‘keep in touch’ – for example, by becoming familiar with changed systems or getting used to work again.
  • Talk about return to work options with your employer, including new or more flexible work arrangements or roles – for example, part-time arrangements. Usually your employer must think about this thoroughly and come to a reasonable decision. Think about where you might be able to compromise or negotiate.
  • Talk with your employer about breastfeeding at work, including facilities where you can breastfeed, express breastmilk and/or refrigerate breastmilk, and times when you can have a break to breastfeed.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has lots of practical information about parental leave and returning to work from parental leave.

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Last updated or reviewed
01-05-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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