My wife and I were overjoyed when we found out we were expecting our first child. It was an exciting time full of hopes and dreams about the future. But it was also a stressful time trying to figure out how to best support my growing family. My wife loved her job, but it involved a lot of lifting, moving heavy boxes all day in the warehouse. And I was concerned about whether that would be safe for her and the baby.
We started researching what jobs and work conditions pregnant women should avoid. There were definitely some surprising ones I hadn’t thought of before! In this article I’ll be sharing what we learned about jobs to avoid while pregnant, to help other expecting parents make good decisions for their families.
What Jobs To Avoid While Pregnant
Jobs with Heavy Lifting
Being pregnant means your body is going through a lot of changes. Your joints become looser, your center of gravity shifts, and your back and abdominal muscles weaken. This makes jobs requiring heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity quite challenging and potentially dangerous for both you and your baby.
Some jobs that typically involve heavy lifting and should be avoided during pregnancy include:
Stocking shelves at grocery stores, big box retailers, or warehouses requires repeatedly lifting boxes and heavy items. This repetitive motion and strain on your back and abdomen can increase risks like preterm labor or injuries. Consider asking for light duty or restrictions on the maximum weight you have to lift.
Most construction jobs require extensive physical exertion like lifting heavy materials, using power tools, climbing ladders, etc. The intense labor combined with exposure to construction site hazards makes most construction roles unsuitable during pregnancy. Explore administrative duties or schedule leave in advance if construction is your line of work.
Warehouse pickers and packers frequently lift and carry boxes throughout their entire shift. The size and weight of boxes can vary tremendously, from a few ounces to over 50 pounds. The repetitive heavy lifting and carrying is strenuous on the back and abdomen and can jeopardize a healthy pregnancy. See if your employer has accommodations to limit required lifting or transfer to an office role.
The key is communicating early with your employer about any job duties that could pose risks and identifying ways to modify your responsibilities. Don’t try to tough it out, as overexertion can have serious consequences for your health and your baby’s wellbeing. Prioritize finding a safe option that works for both you and your employer.
Jobs with Chemical Exposure
Being exposed to chemicals in the workplace can be extremely dangerous during pregnancy. Certain chemicals can increase the risk of birth defects, miscarriage, and other pregnancy complications. Some jobs that commonly involve chemical exposure that should be avoided while pregnant include:
Many industrial cleaners and disinfectants contain harsh chemicals like ammonia, chlorine, and formaldehyde. Even short periods of exposure can be hazardous. Consider avoiding jobs as a housekeeper, janitor, or cleaner in a hospital, factory, or industrial setting.
Factories involve chemical exposure on a daily basis. Many manufacturing jobs coat products with toxic paints, use solvents to clean equipment, or require handling raw plastic materials and releasing unhealthy fumes. Work directly with chemicals should be avoided.
Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used on farms contain concentrated chemicals that can be easily absorbed through the skin. Exposure could lead to birth abnormalities or developmental issues. Avoid working directly with agricultural chemicals while pregnant.
The risks from chemical exposure are too great during pregnancy. It’s best to avoid jobs where contact is frequent until after giving birth. Consider non-chemical alternatives or speak with a doctor about how to stay safe if continuing work around hazardous materials. Temporary accommodations from an employer may also be a possibility.
Jobs Requiring Extensive Standing
As an expectant dad, I know my partner needs to avoid jobs that require standing for long periods of time while pregnant. Jobs like retail, waiting tables, and hair styling often require standing for 8+ hours without much chance to sit down. This constant standing can put a lot of unwanted strain on the legs, back, and feet.
My wife worked as a retail store manager before getting pregnant. She was on her feet all day walking around the sales floor, stocking shelves, ringing up customers, and more. Even with a supportive pair of shoes, her feet and back would ache by the end of each shift. She said she felt like her legs were heavy weights by the evening.
Waiting tables is another role that requires near-constant standing. Waiters and waitresses have to hustle between tables, carry heavy trays of food and drinks, and rarely get to take a seat during their shift. My sister-in-law waited tables during her pregnancy and said her swollen feet spilled out of her shoes by the end of each night. She had to soak them in epsom salt when she got home.
Cutting, styling, and coloring hair also requires a ton of standing. There’s no way for a hairstylist to do their job while sitting down. My aunt is a hairdresser and tried to keep working until she was 7 months pregnant. But the standing all day led to major sciatic nerve pain and her doctor told her she had to go on early maternity leave.
The point is, jobs that require extensive standing often take a major physical toll on pregnant women. It’s best to avoid these roles or see if modified duties are possible. Sitting down whenever possible and wearing supportive footwear can help too. But at some point, a job requiring constant standing becomes unsafe and unpleasant.
High Stress Jobs
Pregnancy is already a stressful time for many women, so adding a high stress job on top of that can take a real toll. Some jobs that tend to be particularly stressful and taxing on pregnant women include:
Emergency Response Roles
Jobs like police, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics often involve responding to emergencies at a moment’s notice. This can mean erratic schedules and high pressure, stressful situations that require quick thinking and snap judgement calls. The physical demands can also be taxing. As your pregnancy progresses, it may become difficult to continue meeting the demands of these roles.
High Pressure Sales
Sales jobs often involve long hours, tight deadlines, demanding quotas, and high pressure tactics. The added stress and anxiety of these kinds of sales roles can be harmful during pregnancy. The pressure to close deals and make sales numbers may become overwhelming. And the long, irregular hours can take a toll as well. It’s important to talk to your employer about options to eliminate unnecessary stress.
Some other high stress jobs like air traffic controllers, financial traders, public relations specialists, and high-level executives also deserve careful consideration during pregnancy. Look at ways to reduce anxiety and instability when possible. And don’t be afraid to make changes or accommodations as needed for your health. Your and your baby’s well-being should be the top priority.
Jobs with Irregular Hours
When I found out my wife was pregnant, one of the first things I did was speak with my employer about transitioning to a more regular 9-5 schedule. I had been working a lot of evenings, overnights and changing shifts up until that point. Once the baby comes, those kinds of unpredictable schedules can really wreak havoc on getting enough sleep and maintaining a sense of balance.
Overnight shifts in particular are really tough on expectant moms. Flip-flopping back and forth between being awake at night and asleep during the day can be stressful and confusing for your body’s circadian rhythms. My wife found that working overnights left her feeling nauseous and uncomfortably tired all the time.
Changing schedules are similarly disruptive for pregnant women. When you don’t have a consistent rhythm to your workdays, it’s hard to establish regular mealtimes, bedtimes and other routines that are so important during pregnancy. The unpredictable changes make it difficult to ever feel fully rested or adjusted.
If at all possible, I’d recommend pregnant women try to avoid jobs that require overnight shifts or constantly changing schedules. The irregularity places a lot of physical stress on your body at a time when you really need stability and consistency. Speak with your employer about transitioning to more regular hours if you can. If that’s not possible, just be mindful about getting extra rest to offset the disruption caused by an erratic schedule. Don’t be afraid to say no to extra shifts if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking care of yourself and your baby should be the top priority.
Related: Sex in Each Trimester of Pregnancy
Jobs with Radiation Exposure
One type of job I would avoid while pregnant is those involving regular radiation exposure. This includes careers where you are subjected to radiation through medical imaging, working around radioactive materials, or airline travel.
Some examples of jobs with concerning radiation exposure include:
- Medical imaging: Jobs like X-ray technicians and technologists who take medical images using radiation. While precautions are taken, being exposed to low doses of radiation daily can present unnecessary risk during pregnancy. The occasional X-ray is probably fine, but I’d avoid this as an everyday career choice while expecting.
- Airline crew members: Pilots and flight attendants get more exposure to cosmic ionizing radiation than the average person due to increased time spent at high altitudes. Research indicates this can be concerning during pregnancy if it occurs regularly. Limiting flights taken or switching roles could help mitigate the risks.
- Nuclear energy workers: Those working in nuclear power plants or facilities have an elevated risk of radiation exposure. Handling radioactive materials regularly comes with potential dangers I’d want to avoid while pregnant. Minimizing exposure through job modifications or duties away from radioactive sources is advised.
The bottom line is that jobs involving routine radiation exposure open pregnant women up to health risks for their developing babies. If possible, I’d avoid these careers while expecting or at least implement precautions to limit radiation contact. There are plenty of fulfilling careers that don’t involve this kind of exposure.
Jobs Requiring Extensive Travel
Traveling for work while pregnant can be challenging. Many jobs require frequent or extended travel which can be difficult to manage during pregnancy. Some key jobs that involve extensive travel include sales, truck driving, and consulting.
Sales positions often require frequent travel to visit clients, attend conferences and trade shows, and manage regional territories. The frequent flights and long hours spent driving place additional physical strain on expectant mothers. The erratic schedule and frequent hotel stays also make maintaining healthy habits difficult. Consider avoiding extensive travel sales positions while pregnant.
For obvious reasons, truck driving jobs requiring long hauls should be avoided during pregnancy. Sitting for prolonged periods, lack of restroom access, improper sleep, and the jostling of driving a large vehicle can negatively impact maternal health. The Department of Transportation requires doctor approval confirming fitness to operate a commercial vehicle during pregnancy.
Consulting gigs requiring travel to client sites weekly or monthly can also be challenging. Frequent flights and extended hotel stays make healthy habits hard. The demanding client-facing aspects of consulting may also increase stress levels. Some firms do allow expecting mothers to take on more back-office projects. But extensive travel consulting roles are best postponed until after giving birth.
Traveling for work while carrying a child presents myriad challenges for expectant mothers. Sales, truck driving, and consulting jobs requiring regular travel should generally be avoided during pregnancy when possible. Discuss alternatives with your employer that minimize frequent trips.
Pregnant women often look for alternative work arrangements that provide more flexibility and accommodate their changing needs. Here are some options to consider:
Many companies now offer telecommuting options, allowing employees to work remotely from home. This eliminates the need to commute and gives pregnant women more control over their schedule. Telecommuting makes it easier to work around frequent breaks, medical appointments, and fatigue. Some jobs are very well-suited for remote work, such as programming, writing, customer service, and administrative roles. Discuss telecommuting options with your manager.
Switching to part-time hours is another way to gain more flexibility. A part-time schedule still allows pregnant women to remain professionally active and contributes income, while also providing more time for rest and medical care. Some employers allow employees to transition back to full-time after pregnancy. Be aware that part-time work may reduce benefits eligibility.
Ask about flexible arrival and departure times, which allow pregnant women to avoid rush hour commutes. See if it’s possible to condense work hours into fewer days to maximize time off. Some roles may accommodategliding schedules, adjusted hours, working through lunch to leave early, or other customizable arrangements. Flexibility allows women to schedule work around feelings of nausea, fatigue, and prenatal appointments.
With some creativity and open communication, alternative options like telecommuting, part-time hours, and flexible scheduling can enable pregnant women to continue thriving professionally while also caring for their health.
As an expectant mother, your health and the health of your baby should be your top priority. While you may need to keep working during your pregnancy, it’s important to avoid jobs that could pose risks. The key jobs to avoid include those with heavy lifting, chemical exposure, extensive standing, high stress, irregular hours, radiation exposure, and extensive travel.
While you may need to make some sacrifices and adjustments during this special time, remember that it’s only temporary. Don’t jeopardize this precious window by taking risks at work. Talk to your employer about light duty options and be open about any limitations you may have.
Most importantly, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up or make a change. Remember to stay positive and focused on the joy ahead. With some prudence and planning now, you’ll be giving your baby the best possible start in life. Prioritize your health, and the rest will follow.