Don't try to be a super woman. You must listen to your body, says Dr Mahima Bakshi.
Photograph*: Creative Commons
Pregnancy can be a challenging phase for working women, especially when they enter the third or fourth trimester.
There can be food cravings, stress and discomfort all of which can a toll on your baby and health.
In the book Birthing Naturally authored by Dr Mahima Bakshi, she takes expectant mothers on a guided tour through the various aspects of pregnancy and offers tips and advice on how to have a natural baby birth.
We bring you an excerpt from the chapter 'Pregnancy and Work.'
Most of my patients are working women.
If you develop complications, you might be told to continue working at your own risk.
Even if there are no complications and your ob–gyn has given you a green signal, you still need to see if your body allows you to continue working.
Remember, pregnancy doesn’t mean that you have to discontinue working.
But maintaining your fitness and wellness will help your body work for as long as possible during this phase.
Most of my patients have been able to work till their ninth month with the help of fitness and wellness classes.
Commuting to your workplace
You must have a look at the distance between your home and office. How long does it take you to reach your workplace after taking traffic into consideration?
In a long-duration journey that might last for forty minutes or an hour, you could have to pee. Then what will you do?
If you have an eight-hour-long shift, along with which you spend around two hours travelling, then you are technically 11–12 hours outside your home.
Such a routine may cause physical discomfort at a certain point in your pregnancy.
You could be more stressed out, have pains and aches as you wouldn’t be getting enough rest.
It might be difficult to follow a proper diet, access clean washrooms, which might lead to you holding your urine for long, something that is not at all advisable during pregnancy.
Time and distance plays an important role in choosing to continue your job. Your mode of commuting also matters. A bumpy commute is not recommended.
Avoid metro rides if your health doesn’t allow you. You may discuss this with your ob–gyn and partner.
Don’t try to be a super woman. You must listen to your body. Never push the body beyond its capacity in pregnancy.
You should try discussing with your boss or seniors at work if the company can support you in any way. Do not be afraid to start such discussions.
Remember that pregnancy is your right as a woman and you do not need to let it be a reason for not finding solutions to your problems even if it means involving your boss.
Stress at work
Stressful work characterized by constant deadlines can aggravate health issues in pregnancy.
Like I have said earlier, exercising, meditation and yoga will help manage stress.
You can do the breathing exercises and meditation even at your workplace. Or you can take a day off or short leave to refresh yourself. You can plan a weekend getaway with your partner to relax and pamper yourself.
But if in spite of all these measures you continue feeling burned out, prioritize your body over work. Sit with your ob–gyn and ask her if you should continue working or if there is some other solution.
Posture at work
If you are a lecturer or a teacher and stand most of the time at work, you must demand a chair during pregnancy. Standing for long durations can aggravate pregnancy related issues such as varicose veins, swelling in legs, cramps, pain in the feet.
Regular blood circulation needs to be maintained.
Poor blood circulation can cause dizziness and you just cannot afford a fall in pregnancy. So sit down with your boss and explain this to them.
Important precautionary measures are necessary not just in standing jobs but for sitting ones as well.
Most jobs nowadays require women to sit in one place for a long time.
If you have such a job, you need to take extra care of your posture as pregnancy leads to many changes in your natural spine alignment.
Your muscles tighten during pregnancy leading to more pain and less flexibility.
Also, your spine curvature changes due to the baby bump. So you have to consciously try to maintain the right posture.
Exercises that involve postural correction, such as stretching exercises, will really help you. I always tell my patients that it is mandatory to maintain fitness in pregnancy.
The spine goes for a toss later when you have to breastfeed your baby frequently, making any pain and posture worse.
So spine care has to start right now. Prevention is the whole purpose of this book. So try to sit or walk tall always and do specific exercises regularly.
You must do basic stretches every three hours in office. These include neck stretches, leg stretches, side bends, arm stretches, etc. Try to take a break and go for a small walk every two hours.
Go fill your water bottle and remember to drink two glasses of water every hour. The more you drink water, the more you will have to pee, which will automatically make you leave your chair and walk.
Drinking adequate water will also prevent urine infections and keep the baby healthy.
Keep practising Kegels while sitting in your chair.
But make sure that you have emptied your bladder. Walk for 5 to 10 minutes during your lunch break after having a meal.
Sit with your feet raised on a foot rest.
Gravity will cause pooling of blood in the legs and worsen the blood circulation. So you have to keep your feet raised above the ground level while you remain seated in office or perhaps even at home.
Try to adjust the level of your desk and chair according to your height to make it ergonomically comfortable for you, making sure there is enough space for your baby bump and the table.
While at work, some people have a tendency to drink a lot of coffee to keep themselves awake when they feel low on energy.
During your pregnancy, you have to restrict your caffeine intake. Excessive caffeine can restrict the growth of the baby.
So as mentioned earlier, do not have more than one cup of coffee or tea every day.
Remember, chocolates also contain caffeine. Along with tea and coffee, also look out for the amount of chocolate you’re consuming.
Pregnancy cravings should be enjoyed, but in the right amount. An excess of everything is bad.
If you have milk in the form of cold coffee, switch to normal cold milk or a fruit shake or protein shake -- these are much healthier options for your baby.
Depending upon your medical condition, discuss with your ob–gyn or dietitian about the amount of milk you should take.
Snacking at work
You must always carry something to munch in your purse to office. Never step out of the house without it.
Refer to the healthy snacks mentioned earlier in the book.
Remember to have small, frequent and healthy meals throughout the day.
Try not to eat at your office canteen if you're not too sure about the conditions in which the food is prepared.
It is preferable to carry your lunch from home. Avoid food with preservatives.
Also, avoid packaged juices as they contain both preservatives and added sugar.
Clothing at work
Wear loose and comfortable clothing. Avoid tight clothes.
Footwear at work
Do not wear heels to work. It will aggravate your backache and leg pain.
Wear shoes or flats.
Excerpted from the book Birthing Naturally by Dr Mahima Bakshi with the permission of publishers, Penguin Random House India.
*Lead image used for representational purposes only.