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The difficulty of working during pregnancy

SEVEN months ago I was chatting with a friend of mine, by then we were both pregnant. I lamented to her how fatigue made me feel at work.

I had lack of quality sleep as my belly grew whilst finding a comfortable position to sleep was difficult. During the last months of the pregnancy I used to wake up exhausted and out of mood but still I had to drag myself to work, only to sit in one place all day long.

Being a journalist with a lot of responsibilities, I never thought how challenging pregnancy would be and felt uncomfortable voicing this to anyone but someone else who was also pregnant just like me.

I did not want to be seen as complaining or ungrateful or even worse, not commit to my career. I know there are a lot of women out there who are scared of the career consequences that frequently accompany starting a family can be during pregnancy. Yes, women do worry about their job capabilities during pregnancy.

First, they face several challenges to perform normally. They have to balance competing demands of their careers, frequent appointments to a doctor or bed rest and pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness or exhaustion.

Not only that, the women want to maintain their proficiency during pregnancy, and many try to avoid signaling that they are less capable than when they were before pregnancy.

But finding a middle ground between yourself, your career and the life-changing future ahead is a near-impossible task. I thank God for the huge support I received from everyone at my office; it was God who provided me with this child. I know many who have struggled.

Lastly, I know I am fortunate that, at this point in time, I am physically capable of carrying on with work. Unless your doctor tells you it is unsafe, it is possible to work while you are pregnant.

I told my superiors the reality of my condition during pregnancy and am so lucky to have received full support from them. Pregnancy is a life event that three-quarters of working women will experience at some point it is crucial for all pregnant women to speak up at work; by doing so it gives confidence to those around you and helps to change the workplace culture.

It interrupts your physical and emotional body in ways that unless you have been pregnant before it’s pretty hard to fully apprecite Let’s take, for example, falling asleep during a work meeting, many women don’t expect how exhausting the first trimester can be but for me, I thank God I didn’t experience it much until the third trimester at times I wished I would sleep for 10 hours. During this time there is positive and negative attention, like way too personal questions ‘How much weight have you gained?

And unwanted advice just remembers you don’t have to give any info you don’t want to give. At times you might feel incompetent but trust me you are not as pregnancy brain is a real thing, your brain is actually rewiring itself for motherhood.

Combined with exhaustion, the distraction of preparing for a new baby and the stress of getting everything done before maternity leave can drive your banana.

However, in my line of work walking around the city throughout the day is normal but that didn’t prevent my feet from swelling.

The best advice my doctor gave me was to prop up my feet whenever I can whenever I had desk job on this one I can advise other pregnant women no matter where you work, take regular short walks.

I was so nervous that my water would break at work but like most women, my water didn’t break until I was in the hospital. Health experts say only 10 per cent of women break their water before they go into labour.

So stay calm, you will not leak amniotic fluid all over your office chair but if you want to calm your fears it’s okay to keep a change clothes and a thick max pad at work.

Mind you the first time labour is usually long and slow not at all like you see in the movies. If you start having contractions at work you will likely have time to head home and hang out a while before you need to go to the hospital.

The most crucial thing during this journey is to learn to manage pregnancy symptoms at work, from morning sickness in the early stages of your pregnancy to fatigue at the end.

Take regular breaks if you can and get plenty of rest at home, wear comfortable shoes and clothes, eat healthily and drink plenty of water. Try to organise your work so you don’t have to travel too much or change your hours around the times you know you are least likely to suffer morning sickness.

Talk to your colleagues about your pregnancy this will help everyone manage any emotions or absent-mindedness you may experience. The truth is that when it comes to working, every stage of pregnancy is a constant struggle between fighting the misconceptions and stereotypes as well as accepting your limitations.

No one wants to be treated like a lesser person or be sidelined because of their pregnancy. We must do better, not because pregnancy is a disability, but for the reason that it is actually a condition that has to be honoured, well-regarded and celebrated.

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Author: HILDA MHAGAMA

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