How to Handle Your Pregnancy as an Employee

As a female in the workplace, you automatically have to deal with a set of factors about which your male counterparts don't have to worry. And, whether or not people like to discuss it, pregnancy is something that women often tiptoe around at their jobs. If you're pregnant, or preparing to become pregnant, you need to make sure that you have a plan for how you'll handle this important phase of your life and career.

How to Tell Your Boss That You're Pregnant

The biggest stressor for most is telling her employer that she's pregnant. A lot of people have heard about instances where a boss erupted, or the news wasn't received as well as she'd hoped. This can be discouraging for many women who're already dealing with heightened emotions and physical discomfort.

In the majority of situations in which a boss responds in a negative manner, there's a reason behind the negative reaction. If you can avoid these triggers and deliver the news in a responsible, timely, appropriate manner, the conversation will be much healthier and more productive.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Know When to Share

When a boss takes the news badly, it's almost always related to timing. If you wait until you're 24 weeks along and clearly showing before you break the news, your boss will probably be frustrated that you didn't say something sooner. On the other hand, if you do what most women do and announce at the beginning of the second trimester, then you're able to give your employer a substantial heads-up that allows him or her to prepare for your impending leave.

2. Have the Right Frame of Mind

Announcing your pregnancy is all about having the right frame of mind. "I don't know what it is about maternity leave that makes people so uncomfortable," says Cheree Aspelin, a pregnancy blogger. "I think of it like a planned surgery or an extended vacation."

If you look at your pregnancy like this, your fears and guilt will start to subside. It'll also impact the way that you tell your boss. Instead of cowering and mumbling your announcement, you'll be able to say confidently, "Hey, I've got great news! I'm pregnant!"

3. Be Consistent

One issue that gets many people in trouble is that they tell their coworkers the news first and then wait a while before informing the boss. You need to make sure that you're being consistent as to when and whom you tell the news.

As soon as you tell one or two coworkers, you can expect them to tell a handful of other employees. Eventually, it'll work its way around the office and end up at your boss' desk. This may backfire if your boss feels like you're hiding something.

4. Don't Do This

Finally, there are a handful of things that you definitely don't want to do when telling your boss you're pregnant. For starters, never set up the conversation in a negative context. In other words, don't begin with, "I have bad news." This automatically sends things in the wrong direction.

Secondly, don't ask your boss how much time they want you to take off. Also, under no circumstances should you tell your boss that you won't be returning after the pregnancy. There'll be plenty of time to discuss leave and work after the birth. Now isn't the appropriate time.

Focus on Health and Productivity

As soon as you learn that you're pregnant, you need to start focusing on your health and productivity. These will become two key responsibilities for you in the coming weeks and months.

Keep these tips in mind:

1. Eat Healthy

Because of morning sickness and nausea, it can be hard to consume healthy meals throughout the day. However, you need to try your best. Healthy eating is extremely important for the health of your changing body and your growing baby.

Some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy include bananas, beans, avocados, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and other foods that are high in vitamins, folic acid, calcium, iron, protein, zinc, riboflavin, and other important nutrients.

2. Listen to Your Body

The worst thing that you can do is to try to push through and treat your body like you aren't pregnant. While the nausea, fatigue, and discomfort may be frustrating, don't ignore these things. Take short breaks, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of sleep every night. Your body's sending you these signals for a reason.

3. Make Yourself Comfortable

If there's a time where it's acceptable to make yourself comfortable at work, it's when you're pregnant. As your physical discomfort increases throughout your pregnancy, adjust your office and workspace so it's conducive to your needs. Try padding your chair with pillows. Adjust the temperature in your office to suit your needs. Get up, and walk around. Nobody will blame you for switching things up.

Know Your Rights

As a pregnant worker, you have rights. While these rights will hopefully never come into question, it's helpful at least to be aware of them so you know when you're being treated unjustly. If something ever feels out of the ordinary or wrong, be sure to check with HR, or read up on employment laws to learn more.

Here are a few things that you should know:

1. You Cannot be Fired for Being Pregnant

No matter how an employer tries to disguise the discrimination, it's illegal for him or her to fire you because of your pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 clearly protects your right to employment during and after pregnancy.

2. You Don't Have to Tell Your Boss That You're Pregnant

While it's wise to tell your employer that you're pregnant - and, let's be honest, he or she's going to find out when you begin to show - you're under no legal obligation to notify him or her. You could theoretically wait until the baby is born, and then call your employer to tell him or her that you'll be taking leave. However, this isn't recommended - for obvious reasons.

3. Your Employer Can't Force You to Take Time Off

Even when an employer thinks that he or she's acting in the best interest of the employee, he or she can't reassign a pregnant worker or force her to take time off - if the employee is fully capable of doing her job. In other words, an employer can't legally base employment decisions on assumptions that the pregnant worker's capabilities will be limited by health concerns and physical limitations.

Don't Feel Guilty

It's common for women in the workplace to feel guilty when they find out that they're expecting. This is incredibly unfortunate, since it's such exciting news. If you've recently discovered that you're pregnant, don't feel guilty or overwhelmed. Women get pregnant and have babies every single day - and many are in situations just like yours.

Furthermore, if you're worried about how your employer will treat you when he or she learns that you're pregnant, remember that you have rights. Depending on where you work, in which state you live, and the rules that govern your situation, there are certain conveniences that an employer must provide pregnant employees. Don't be shy about taking advantage of these. Congratulations on your pregnancy!