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By Erin Gifford Pregnancy is a full-time job, which makes it tough when you’re also working an actual full-time job. Juggling meetings and deadlines with doctor’s visits and morning sickness is a struggle, but you can get through 40 weeks and still make the most of your 40 working hours. Here’s veteran advice for managing your work life as an expecting mom. Soothing Symptoms Many women work right up until their due date. Unfortunately, this often means dealing with fatigue and discomfort out in the open-from your cube. If you experience any nausea, reach for whole-grain toast, which will fill you up more than a few saltines. Low-acid, high-fiber fruits such as pears and apples are also good bets. Steer clear of fatty foods; they take longer to digest and can make you sleepy and more queasy. Later in pregnancy, you’re often tired, so try yoga or taking a walk first thing in the morning to replace a cup of coffee. When your eyelids feel heavy, splash your face with cold water or brush your teeth. The cool, fresh feeling should pep you up. “I found that I had energy in the mornings, but by 4 p.m. I was wiped out,” says Jennifer Clarin of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, who was fortunate that her boss was flexible and let her start her workday earlier. “Not only did I get the rest I needed, my office also got me at my most productive.” By your third trimester, swelling and overheating make it hard to get comfortable. Dress in layers to stay cool and wear a supportive shoe with arches. Prop up your legs under your desk and take frequent breaks to walk around, which will help circulation and relieve pain. Handling Doctor Visits Toward the end of your pregnancy, you’ll spend more time in the doctor’s office and less time in your own. To minimize time out, call before you leave to make sure your doctor is in that day and not backed up with patients or delivering a baby. Also prep your boss beforehand with a plan that addresses your absence that week. “I always ask [the doctor] about what to expect next time,” says expecting mom Molly McMahon of Reston, VA. “That way, I can better gauge how long I’ll be out of the office. It also helps that I have a BlackBerry so my boss knows I’m still pretty accessible and can read email in the waiting room.” When making appointments, ask if your care provider has a block of time set aside for prenatal visits and book one month in advance to keep from being overbooked into an already-full schedule, suggests Pamela Berens, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Choose early morning time slots mid-week for the quickest visits—-Mondays and Fridays are busiest. (For more appointment advice, see the feature, “If Your OB Was Your BFF”) Prepping to LeaveIn your third trimester, get serious about planning your leave. Yin Chang of Glen Ridge, NJ, suggests creating a tracking grid of all work in progress, so you know each project’s status and how much there is left to do. This will help you stay organized, particularly late in your pregnancy when the mind easily wanders to thinking about when the crib will arrive. “If you don’t have a dedicated weekly meeting, start having one, so your team knows what’s on your plate,” Chang says. About two weeks before your leave, tighten up your list of projects and discuss responsibilities one-on-one with each person, so there’s no confusion about next steps and who’s taking them in your absence. It can be difficult to transition from being in the office every day, an integral part of a team, to being home alone with a new baby. In your eighth or ninth month, wean yourself off the long hours at the office by ending your day earlier or asking your boss if you can work from home one or two days a week. Also start your leave well before your due date, if you can, to get comfortable with your new situation. At the very end of your pregnancy, delegate a point person at the office, suggests Nancy W. Hall, Ph.D., author of Balancing Pregnancy and Work. “Let co-workers know that if anyone needs to reach you they should use this person for office communications.” This will give you and your family as much privacy and rest as possible once your baby arrives, and will make the transition back to work easier, because you’ll get the download on what you missed from a single colleague.
To combat pregnancy symptoms in the office, keep these in your desk drawer: • Ginger candy or chews to ease nausea • Comfy shoes for late-day foot swelling • Support hose for swollen legs • A lumbar pillow for lower-back support • Healthy snacks such as dried fruit and nuts • Wet wipes or spray mist to clean and refresh • Acetaminophen for headaches and back pain • Antacids for heartburn • Panty liners and extra underwear for incontinence or spotting Erin Gifford made the weekly staff meeting on the morning of her due date with her third child. She also managed to give birth that day. Her articles have also appeared in Natural Health.