Working while pregnant: tips for managing pregnancy symptoms

Working while pregnant – especially during the early months – can be tricky if you’re going through morning sickness and feeling really tired. There are three key things you can do to manage these symptoms:

You might also be able to make some changes at work and home to better look after yourself. Here are some ideas.

At work

  • Take regular breaks if you can – even if it’s only a few minutes at a time.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Some women find wearing compression stockings or socks helps with tired legs.

At home

  • Rest when you can and go to bed early if possible.
  • Try to relax regularly. For example, get into the habit of having a warm bath or reading a good book before bed.
  • Ask for and accept help from family and friends. Support from people around you can give you more time to rest.
  • Do regular, gentle to moderate physical activity to improve your sleep, boost your energy, ease back pain and more.
  • Pre-cook and freeze meals, so you don’t have to cook as often. This is great for days when you’re really tired.

For many women, pregnancy symptoms start to settle down in the second trimester. You might find you're experiencing morning sickness less and your mood and energy levels are lifting back up.

You can talk to your GP or midwife about more ways to manage your pregnancy symptoms. And it’s important to check with your GP before taking any new medication.

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.
  • 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.
  • Ask your midwife or doctor about local clinics and health services that are open at a convenient time for you, like outside of business hours.
  • If you’re a casual or shift worker, you might be able to work public holidays to make up for income you lose when you take time off for appointments. Public holidays usually offer a higher rate of pay.
  • 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.
  • Plan a family support network. Your network might include your family, friends and people in community groups.

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. It might help to do a family budget.
  • Check if you’re eligible for 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.
  • Look into parent and family services and services and support.
  • Consider ways to make your daily and weekly routine easier, like 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 staying 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. While you’re on unpaid parental leave, you can do up to 10 days paid work to ‘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.