Feature Archive

Protection During Pregnancy

Work and pregnancy.

WebMD Feature

Aug. 28, 2000 -- Joan Bartlet of Clarksville, Tenn., a single mother expecting her second child, may have to work right through her pregnancy. She needs the money and the health benefits that her job as an aide at a nursing home brings. "This is a very stressful job," the 26-year-old says. "I'm studying to become an RN, but for now I've got to do this."

Concerned about Bartlet's health -- and the future health of her baby -- her obstetrician wants her to stop lifting patients from wheelchairs to beds and back during the third trimester of her pregnancy. Although the nursing home says this lifting is essential to her job, Bartlet is petitioning her employers to switch her to lighter duty for these crucial three months. Despite her doctor's advice to take a break if her employers won't budge, she doesn't have disability insurance to cover lost wages if she were to take time off.

Bartlet has reason for concern. A study published in the April 2000 issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology gathered data from 29 recent studies -- published over the last four years -- that monitored the experiences of more than 160,000 pregnant working women. Researchers concluded that physically demanding work during the third trimester significantly increases a woman's risk of pregnancy-related problems. The study found a greater incidence of premature birth, hypertension, and preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure accompanied by swelling and toxemia) in the women with strenuous jobs, especially those involving prolonged standing and repetitive lifting.