Among pregnant workers expecting their first child between 2006 and 2008, 82% worked into their last month of pregnancy
This just in: Your water just broke on live TV.
NBC News 4 anchor Natalie Pasquarella let out an odd giggle last week as she went into early labor during a newscast, only informing her colleagues of the development after the broadcast went off air. Thirteen hours later at a hospital, her five-pound, six-inch bundle of joy arrived.
While few expectant moms endure the precursor to childbirth on camera, Pasquarella’s overall situation isn’t rare: Women are likelier to work during their pregnancy now than they were three or four decades ago, according to a 2011 Census report. And among women working while expecting their first child between 2006 and 2008, 82% worked into their last month of pregnancy.
Meredith Bodgas, the four-months-pregnant editor-in-chief of Working Mother magazine, worked up until the day she went into labor while pregnant with her son, now three. “Maternity leave policies in this country, as you well know, are not very generous — you tend to get up to 12 weeks,” she told Moneyish. “So if you take some of that time before your baby’s born, that’s less time you have afterward … I wanted to maximize the time I spent with my newborn.”
Bodgas, then senior editor at Hearst’s WomansDay.com, says she wasn’t pressured by management to keep working late into her pregnancy — “but it was corporate culture that puts the pressure to keep working, and it’s maternity leave policies that make you choose: Are you going to start it early, or are you going to use it once your child arrives?”
The 34-year-old Bellmore, N.Y. resident plans on working until labor again with son no. 2 — though in a perfect world, she said, “I would’ve been out already because I’ve been so sick.” She’s fortunate enough to work at a company that offers telecommuting, but went into the office for meetings a few weeks ago — and threw up on the LIRR train home.
“I think all moms to be don’t want their condition — their pregnancy — to be seen as an impediment to their work,” Bodgas said. “Many of us are striving to continue to climb up the ladder, and we’re getting pregnant at a time when work success is critical. So we don’t ever want our pregnancy to make our managers or the people around us think that we’re slacking off — even though some days I really want to slack off because I don’t feel well.”
So at what point should expectant moms wait out their gestating newborns at home instead of at work? According to OB-GYNs, that’s totally their call.
“There are no specific guidelines for women to stop working,” Mayo Clinic OB-GYN Yvonne Butler Tobah told Moneyish. “It would be completely reasonable for a woman to decide that she’s going to continue to work until she goes into labor, as long as she has no medical complications that prevented her from working.” Butler Tobah does, however, discuss with her pregnant patients five common workplace exposures — prolonged working hours, shift work, heavy lifting, prolonged standing and heavy physical workload — and recommends they reach a “comfortable and safe” plan with their employers to enable to them to continue working.
Medically speaking, the guidelines for coming in for a labor evaluation include suspecting your water has broken, having painful regular contractions for more than an hour or concern for the baby’s health, said OB-GYN Katherine McHugh, a member of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ executive board. In general, though, it’s safe for women to continue performing most jobs right up until labor, she told Moneyish.
“Work is not necessarily detrimental to your pregnancy, and in many ways it can keep a woman active and engaged in her community throughout the pregnancy,” McHugh said. “But throughout the third trimester, many women feel the need to work up to the last moment simply because of the impact of the maternity leave on the workplace … or the length of time a woman has with her newborn.”
A woman’s decision to stop working “should be made by her, for her body and for her family,” McHugh said. “Sometimes the woman is very uncomfortable, or she’s not sleeping well, or her other children are demanding of her time before the baby comes,” she said. “Those are all legitimate reasons for a woman to decide that she is ready to start her leave.”
While the work environment is an important factor to consider, she added, “it shouldn’t be the final reason that she decides to delay maternity leave.”
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