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Pregnancy Tips for the Professional Woman

Posted: Pregnancy & Birth » Pregnancy Fitness » Work & Business | July 1st, 2004



By Meagan Francis

Varicose veins, fatigue, back and neck pain and other common discomforts of pregnancy are difficult enough to ward off under the best of circumstances. They can be worsened by the characteristic conditions of an office job. So how can the professional pregnant woman keep these customary complaints at bay?

Create a healthy office space. Sitting all day at a desk, whether you are typing or holding a phone to your ear, can cause neck, back, leg and arm strain. But some forethought and planning — and possibly some new office equipment — can nip muscle strain in the bud.

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According to Dr. Jerome F. McAndrews, national spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association in Arlington, Va., “A pregnant women should absolutely have her keyboard on a slide-out rest so that her forearms are parallel to the floor. If she can’t have one, then she should have a chair that can be raised so that she is always looking down at her keyboard and straight at her monitor, never up.”

While typing, don’t hunch your shoulders, and keep wrists flat. Look for an ergonomic keyboard, mouse and wrist pad; these may help prevent the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which can be aggravated during pregnancy.

Desk chairs that are too high off the floor can cause pressure in your hamstrings. Consider placing a couple of phone books or a stool on the floor in front of your chair to rest your feet on. Just make sure that you are able to space your feet far enough apart for good support and weight distribution.

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, keep from holding the receiver to your ear with your shoulder, which can cause shoulder and neck pain as well as muscle spasms. Try using a headset instead.

Some women find that alternatives to the ordinary desk chair, such as kneeling chairs or even large fitness balls, help them maintain good posture throughout the work day. “Any chair that helps you maintain the normal slight forward curve of the lower back, slight backward curve of the upper back and slight forward curve of the neck is fine,” says Dr. McAndrews.

Dress for success. “Pregnant women should never wear high heels!” says Dr. McAndrews. “High heels exaggerate the normal forward curve of the spine, but the back is not able to accommodate it.” Heavy bags or laptop cases slung over one shoulder can also cause a problem. “Walking with a bag on one shoulder means the woman won’t move that arm when she walks, and she may even hike the shoulder up,” says Dr. McAndrews, who recommends crossing bags over the shoulder to rest on the opposite hip.

Get moving. Air circulation is poor in many office buildings. Combine this with sitting (often slouching) at a desk for most of the day, and fatigue is the likely result. To make things worse, too much sitting can aggravate or cause varicose veins, and headaches can occur from staring at a computer screen for too long. To combat this, “Get up every 30 minutes and walk around,” says Dr. McAndrews. If you can, try to make several trips outside during the day for fresh air and sunshine.

Take care of your body in your hours off. Don’t forget about your health when you aren’t at work — use this time as an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate your body. Regular stretching and gentle exercise can help keep blood pumping and muscles limber. Prenatal yoga, water aerobics, walking and swimming are all excellent choices. Getting a massage from a therapist trained in prenatal massage can soothe and relax tired, strained muscles and ligaments. And if you have muscle or joint pain that persists, consider chiropractic or osteopathic evaluation.

The American Chiropractic Association web site contains information on computer ergonomics, musculoskeletal health and other topics of interest to new and expectant parents, including choosing a child safety seat and baby joggers.

Office-ergo.com features a comprehensive list of common problems, with scientific solutions covering everything from chair height to computer font size.

Hoping to revamp your office space? From desk chairs to squishy mouse pads to headsets, this site contains all the products you’ll ever need.

© Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis is the mother of three wonderful sons. While she’s not tracking down Bionicle pieces, she works as the office manager/ communications director for a freestanding birth center. She’s also a freelance writer and has been published in magazines like Brain,Child, Skirt! and ePregnancy.

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