Being pregnant while the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world must be a scary time, not only for pregnant colleagues but also for their families.
I wanted to provide a few elements of key evidence surrounding the virus and provide some advice and guidance for pregnant workers temporarily working at home.
COVID-19 and Pregnancy
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have put together guidance on what they know about COVID-19 and pregnancy, this is being continually updated and be found here.
Briefly, pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to be severely unwell than other healthy adults if they develop COVID-19. It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu-like symptoms.
If pregnant staff develop more severe symptoms or recovery is delayed this may be a sign of developing a more significant chest infection that requires enhanced care. RCOG advises if symptoms are worsening or if they’re not getting better they should contact their maternity care team or use the NHS 111 online service for further information and advice.
COVID-19 and Babies
As this is a very new virus, we are just beginning to learn about it. There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage. There is also no evidence that the virus can pass to a baby while pregnant or during birth.
Expert opinion is that the baby is unlikely to be exposed during pregnancy. It is also therefore considered unlikely that if they have the virus it would cause problems with the baby’s development, and none have been observed currently (RCOG, as of 30th March, 2020).
Advice to Provide to Staff
We’ve put together the following advice that you can distribute to pregnant staff to support them during this time.
There are four fundamental principles you can do to keep yourself healthy during this difficult time:
- Sleep – it is important for your overall health to get between 7-9 hours of sleep at night
- Movement or exercise – moving or doing light exercise is important for your overall health, talk with your maternity care team on what exercises are suitable for your stage of pregnancy
- Nutrition – it is important that you are eating well, not only for you but also for your baby. Typically, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day. Talk with your maternity care team who can provide advice on nutrition
- Routine – where you can, try to keep to your ‘normal’ routine, by waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time as you normally would. Pregnancy can cause fatigue, if you need extra naps during the day, take them
Remember to talk with your manager if you are feeling ‘out of sorts’ and need extra support while you are working at home. Try not to feel guilty if you are taking extra naps, when you wouldn’t normally do if you were working in your normal workplace. If you need a nap, take it.
Depending upon the stage of your pregnancy will depend on how you adapt to working at home. As you know, the further along in your pregnancy, your body will change shape, new hazards related to reaching, balance, lifting and repetitive motion may develop.
Only you will know where in your home is the best place to work. You may have options in your home, such as working at your dining room table, or kitchen counter, or even the sofa.
Wherever you decide to work:
- Set an alarm, so every 30 minutes you get up and walk and stretch
- You may want to consider raising your feet on a footrest (if you have one) or a makeshift footrest such as a box, this will give you extra support and reduce swelling
- Support your lower back and cushion your tailbone with a cushion or a rolled-up towel/blanket
- Pregnant women are prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome, so it is essential that you keep your wrists in a neutral position, do not rest them on the keyboard
- Avoid unnecessary reaching by keeping things you use frequently close to you. An example of this is to keep your elbows down towards your sides, with your phone and mouse in reach while still maintaining your arms close to your side
- As your tummy grows, your spine curves more, especially in the lower back to accommodate the growing baby
Remember to talk with your manager about your expectations whilst you work at home during this time.
Keep in contact with your maternity care team and attend all of your appointments where you can.
If you need further advice whilst working at home, please contact your maternity care team and/or your work’s occupational health team.
For further information regarding pregnancy and temporary home working, email [email protected] or call 020 7469 0200.