Pregnancy on the Job: 5 Dos & Don'ts

The only advice many moms hear about being pregnant at work is this: hide it as long as possible. Because once your office mates know, they'll peg you with "pregnancy brain," pass you over for promotions, and all in all write you off. That's the bad news.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to do damage control and keep pregnancy from derailing your career. Here are five dos and don'ts to stay on track when you're pregnant on the job.


1. DO Make it clear to your boss that you're committed to your career. Sure, YOU may know you're committed to your career...but your boss is no minder reader. "A common bias is that pregnant women will no longer be committed to their jobs, and may just quit," says Cynthia Calvert, an employment lawyer who studies pregnancy discrimination from both the employer and the employee perspective and president of Workforce 21C. Luckily, there are several things that pregnant women can do to combat this bias.

"The first is to discuss with their supervisors a plan for transitioning their work while they are on maternity leave and then for getting back up to speed when they return," says Calvert. "It is also important that they tell supervisors in this conversation that they are committed to their jobs and plan to return after their maternity leave, even if the supervisor doesn't ask. Affirming their commitment will help to reduce the influence of the bias."

2. DON'T talk about your pregnancy too much. After all, they can see you're pregnant. And the more you talk about it, the more some coworkers may mistakenly assume that pregnancy is the only thing on your mind, as in, "Who gives a hoot about that new client or revenue stream? I'm having a baby, guys!" Another reason to keep the baby talk to a minimum is the fact that some of your coworkers may have been unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term, so you could be inadvertently rubbing salt in a wound and cultivating resentment.

3. DON'T let your boss chalk up problems to your pregnancy. Late on a deadline? Not up to speed on that important memo? Then you must be suffering from "pregnancy brain" -- that much-joked-about fog that turns working women's minds to mush. That, at least, is what all your coworkers will be thinking if your performance falls even slightly short, so if there's a different reason for some flub at work, you'd better spell that out.

"If a pregnant woman is going to be unable to meet a deadline, it is important that she tell her supervisor and tell the supervisor why, so that the supervisor is not left to assume that the cause is her pregnancy," says Calvert. "She can say something like 'I apologize, but it looks like I won't have the drawings to you until Tuesday because Bob has me tied up on a rush matter. Will that be all right, or do you want to discuss this with Bob?' This undermines the bias and will prevent the supervisor from thinking that she will be worthless for the remainder of her pregnancy."

4. DO ask why if you're passed over for a plum project. "The bias that pregnant women aren't committed can lead to being excluded from good assignments or training programs," says Calvert. Over time, this can snowball, because if Jimmy knocked it out of the park last time, why not give him the promotion you deserve? So make sure to take this bull by the horns as well. "A pregnant woman can say to her supervisor something like 'Pat, I saw that the ABC matter went to Justin. I just want to let you know that I am really interested in working on ABC types of matters, and I would appreciate it if you would keep me in mind if another one comes in,'" says Calvert. "If that doesn't work, or if it is clear that the supervisor is treating the pregnant employee differently because she is pregnant, then it is time to get HR involved."

More from The Stir: 5 Ways to Share Your Pregnancy News With Your Boss

5. DO know your legal rights. "Pregnant women who are protected by the Family Medical Leave Act may take protected leave for prenatal appointments, for example, and if they have a pregnancy-related impairment that is severe enough, they are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act or some state laws," says Calvert.

Also know there are free hot-lines for pregnant women to call to get information about your rights, including the one at The Center for WorkLife Law and A Better Balance.

Did you sense a "pregnancy bias" at work?


Image © Artiga Photo/Corbis

Read More >