OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WELFARE OFFICE
NEW AND EXPECTANT MOTHERS
NEW AND EXPECTANT MOTHERS
This guide provides an overview of the legal requirements in place to ensure the protection of those
have recently given birth
and to ensure the protection of the developing child
Pregnancy is a part of normal everyday life, it is not an illness. Many women work during pregnancy and
many return to work while they are breastfeeding. Because there are some hazards in the workplace
which may affect either the health of the woman or her developing child, the Safety, Health and
Welfare at Work (Pregnant Employees etc) Regulations 2000 provide specific protection during this
The requirements of the Pregnancy Regulations are in addition to the more general requirements of
(1) The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act, 1989 supplemented by
(2) The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations, 1993.
These require at all places of work without exception:
• identification of hazards
• risk assessment (in writing)
• the putting in place of adequate safeguards
• consultation with employees.
To prevent damage to the foetus during the very early stage of pregnancy, it is essential that the
potential risks to pregnancy are part of the routine risk assessments at each and every workplace
and this risk assessment is not left until pregnancy is notified and these specific regulations apply.
There are more specific requirements included in the General Application Regulations covering:
• workplace (especially welfare arrangements)
• work equipment
• personal protective equipment
• manual handling of loads
• working with VDUs
and in the Chemical Agents Regulations, the Carcinogens Regulations, the Biological Agents
Regulations and the Lead Regulations which would require specific consideration during pregnancy.
The Pregnancy Regulations
The Pregnancy Regulations provide an additional and specific legal basis for protection during
pregnancy and while breastfeeding. These regulations:
identify a list of conditions known to affect either a pregnant woman, a breast feeding
woman or the developing child.
outline the ways to manage health and safety of the pregnant (or breastfeeding) woman
during this period.
a pregnant employee - this means a woman who has given her employer a medical certificate (or
similar) stating she is pregnant,
an employee who has recently given birth - this means an employee during the 14 weeks
immediately after giving birth (even if this was a miscarriage or stillbirth),
an employee who is breastfeeding - this means an employee who is breastfeeding during the 26
weeks immediately after giving birth.
Any reference to a pregnant woman in the following sections of this guide will include women during
pregnancy, immediately after pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
When do the Regulations apply?
When an employee informs her employer that she is pregnant, has recently given birth or is
breastfeeding and provides an appropriate medical certificate.
She may choose to inform her employer through her supervisor or by having her doctor directly
contact the employer.
As the earliest stages of pregnancy are the most critical ones for the developing child it is in the
employee's interest to let her manager/supervisor know she is pregnant as soon as possible.
It must be emphasised here that these specific Pregnancy Regulations are derived from an EU
Directive which has been transposed into Irish law. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act,
(1989) and General Applications Regulations, (1993) already require that a risk assessment is done
as part of the Safety Statement required in all workplaces.
This risk assessment should already have identified any hazards which may present a risk during
The risk assessment specifically required by these Pregnancy Regulations should, therefore, be a
re-appraisal of these hazards.
This information should also be passed on to the Safety Representative.
What must DIT as an employer do?
On receiving notification that an employee is pregnant, a member of staff from the Occupational
Health Office must assess the specific risks to that employee and take action to ensure that she is
not exposed to any thing which will damage either her health or that of her developing child.
The Occupational Health Officer will:
- assess the risk
This means determine:
(a) what the pregnant woman is exposed to
(b) how often the exposure occurs and for how long
- act to ensure there is no damage to health
This means a risk of personal injury which for this purpose means any disease or damage to a
person's physical or mental condition or any possible effect on the pregnancy or the unborn infant.
If the assessment reveals there is a risk, the Occupational Health Officer must inform the woman
about the risk and what will be done to ensure neither she nor the developing child is put at risk.
The Occupational Health Officer must then assess if there are any practical ways the risk can be
Step 1 adjust the working conditions and/or hours of work.
If this doesn't remove the risk
Step 2 provide suitable alternative work or if a pregnant employee (here specifically meaning
during pregnancy and the 14 weeks immediately following childbirth) is regularly involved in night
work for a period of at least 3 hours between 11.00 pm and 6.00 am, or for 25% of their monthly
working time, and has a medical certificate stating that this will damage her health she must also
be found alternative work.
If that isn't possible
Step 3 the employer should give the employee safety and health leave under Section 18 of the
Maternity Protection Act 1994. It should be noted that these steps apply where the
Occupational Health Officer, having undertaken the risk assessment, identifies occupational
risks, which arise for normal pregnancies.
Posters will be displayed in each building stating that new and expectant mothers should contact
their local Occupational Health Officer to arrange an appointment and pregnancy risk assessment.
Safety Statements and Safety booklets will also highlight the need for new and expectant mothers
to arrange for risk assessments to be completed.
The Occupational Health Office will take appropriate steps to ensure that employees, their Safety
Representatives or both are provided with the following information:
The results of the assessment
The control measures implemented.
The Occupational Health Office will also advise the pregnant woman on her health and provide a
confidential support service. Information about the pregnant employee will not be disclosed,
without the consent of the employee.
Time off to attend appointments
It is import that the pregnant employee makes arrangements with their supervisor/manager for
time off to attend prenatal classes and hospital appointments.
Breastfeeding is highly recommended. Provisions will be made to facilitate breastfeeding during
working hours. The Occupational Health Officer will make appropriate arrangements for
breastfeeding, expressing milk and the storage of milk.
Further information may be obtained from the following websites:
Maternity Protection Act 1994 – ( www.irishstatutebook.ie )
Preparing for Pregnancy
The following are some frequently asked questions which have been sourced from
VHI. They are intended for information purposes only. For further information,
please contact the Occupational Health Office and your local GP.
We are all familiar with the phrase "you are what you eat". Now that you are eating for two, good
nutrition is even more important. A healthy, balanced diet will help keep your energy levels high and
create a good environment for your growing baby.
Most women make huge efforts to change their diet once they discover that they are pregnant.
However, preparing for pregnancy by eating a healthy, balanced diet with folic acid supplements,
taking exercise and cutting out smoking and alcohol in the few months before becoming pregnant is
also very important. If you are in good health, the chances are your baby will be too.
If you are overweight, make healthy eating choices and become more active. Likewise, if you are
underweight try to put on a few pounds by increasing your carbohydrate intake rather than going for
chocolate and crisps. If you need advice on losing or gaining weight ask the dietician at your hospital or
contact the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.
Your baby will be fully formed within the first ten weeks of pregnancy so it is vitally important that
you make good food choices that will help both you and your growing baby.
Benefits of a healthy diet
Eating regular meals and a wide variety of foods will supply you with all the energy, vitamins and
minerals you will need to have a healthy and successful pregnancy. Regardless of other commitments,
you should ensure that you eat at least three meals each day. If you have the time five or six small
meals spaced throughout the day will help keep your energy levels up and stop you feeling nauseous.
Snack on fruit, yogurt, crackers, scone or a muffin rather than high fat or high sugar foods, which will
give you a quick but short-lived boost. Try to limit your intake of caffeine drinks as well - it is energy
you need as opposed to feeling awake. No more than two cups of coffee per day is recommended
Nausea can occur at any time of the day, but for some reason it is called "morning sickness". Most
people find it is easier to eat small, frequent meals rather than being sick on an empty stomach. If the
vomiting is excessive contact your GP or Obstetrician. In severe cases you may need to be rehydrated
in hospital. If in doubt about the severity of your sickness, ask for advice from a professional.
Your daily eating plan
While you will need to eat more of some foods, you do not need to eat for two. It is vital not to
overeat simply because you know you are going to gain weight over the next nine months. 10-12 kg
(approximately 2 stone) is the expected weight gain for a healthy pregnancy. This extra weight gain is
comprised of the weight of your baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, increases in the weight of your
breasts and uterus and increase in blood volume.
Calcium is important for the development of your baby's teeth, which will begin to form as early as
the sixth week of pregnancy. It is also essential for healthy bone development. Milk, cheddar cheese
and yogurt are all good sources. Calcium is also found in the soft bones in tinned fish, in white bread
and in small amounts in broccoli and cabbage. Pregnant women are advised to consume 1200mg of
Iron levels are important during pregnancy and lactation for healthy cell development and the
transportation of oxygen. However, whether or not all women need an iron supplement tablet is the
subject of much controversy. Your GP or Obstetrician will advise you on whether you need to take one
It is useful to know that some foods such as cereals, milk and tea interfere with the absorption of
iron and therefore iron supplements should be taken between meals (unless otherwise stated on the
label) and not directly after a breakfast of cereal, milk and a cup of tea!
The best dietary source of iron is lean red meat. You should aim to eat 3-4 portions per week.
Fortified breakfast cereals, beans, eggs, apricots, prunes, figs, spinach and broccoli also contain iron
but, they need a good supply of vitamin C to make use of the iron.
Oranges, tangerines, clementines, satsuma, grapefruit, lemon, limes, kiwi, blackcurrants, mangoes and
nectarines or any drinks made from these fruits are rich in vitamin C. Potatoes are also a reasonably
good source. During pregnancy your vitamin C requirements increase by 33 percent. Choose two of the
foods listed each day to meet your vitamin C requirements.
Essential fatty acids
Mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines and kippers contain the essential oils DHA and EPA, which aid the
development of your baby s brain and eyes. Aim to eat two or three portions of oily fish per week.
Following a high-fibre diet will help to ease the discomfort of constipation and piles (haemorriods),
which are common complaints during pregnancy. High fibre foods include wholewheat or wholegrain
breakfast cereal, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. Fruit and vegetables are also an excellent source
of fibre. Try to include at least one portion of fruit or vegetables at each meal and one extra portion
during the day as a snack. It is also important to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day,
particularly when you are following a high-fibre diet.
Folic acid is a common water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in asparagus, beetroot, broccoli,
brussel sprouts and peas. During pregnancy this vitamin is needed for the vital development of your
baby's brain and spine. A deficiency in this vitamin is associated with increased risk of Neural Tube
Defects (NTDs) including spina bifida and anencephaly. There are approximately eight babies born
each month in Ireland with NTDs. This figure could be reduced by 75 percent if all women of
childbearing age took a folic acid supplement.
The body cannot make folic acid; additional requirements therefore need to be supplied in the form of
a supplement and by eating more foods rich in folic acid.
Ideally, a folic acid supplement (containing 4 micrograms of folic acid) should be taken three months
prior to conception and up until the twelfth week of pregnancy. Foods that have been fortified with
folic acid, including some breads, breakfast cereals and milk will help to increase the high intake
Foods to avoid while pregnant
You should take care to avoid the following:
• Liver is rich in vitamin A. Too much of this vitamin may be harmful to your baby, particularly during
the first trimester.
• Fish liver oil supplements such as cod liver oil.
• Raw eggs. Ensure that the yolk and white are solid when having a boiled or fried egg and eat only
• Undercooked meat. Meat must be cooked evenly and thoroughly. Cooking it until it is pink is not
• Unpasteurised milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt (both cows and goats milk
• Soft cheese such as camembert or brie and blue veined cheese.
• Unwashed fruit and vegetables. Take extra care when eating out, especially on holidays abroad and
only choose cooked fruit and vegetables.
• Peanuts. It is recommended that you avoid nuts and products containing nuts during pregnancy and
lactation to help avoid allergy.
• Alcohol. The balance of evidence suggests that drinking alcohol should be avoided.
In addition to the above foodstuffs, you should not take any drugs unless specifically prescribed to
you by a doctor/midwife who knows you are pregnant. Almost all drugs cross the placenta and many are
capable of harming your unborn baby. Some over-the-counter drugs are also unsuitable for pregnant
A recent study has shown that smoking during pregnancy has a long-term negative effect on growth.
Children whose mothers smoked while pregnant were lower in stature and weight and they also had
lower bone density.
Remember the importance of hygiene when preparing food. Always use gloves when gardening and
always wash your hands after handling raw meat.
How can I best take care of myself while working?
*Put your feet up. Keep a box or stool under your desk.
*Wear comfortable shoes. You might try maternity tights or support hose, too.
*Seek out the support of fellow mothers.
*Take breaks. Stand up and stretch if you've been sitting; sit down and raise your feet if you've been
*Drink a lot. Keep a tall water glass at your desk, and refill it often. (This will also give you a chance to
take a break.)
*Don't hold it in. If you have to go to the bathroom, do it.
*Evaluate your office space. Working at a computer won't harm your developing baby, but pregnant
women are more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, so be sure to take any appropriate measures
you can to make your desk and chair arrangement as comfortable as possible.
*Rest, rest, rest. Don't overexert yourself at home or at work.
*Avoid workplace hazards.
*Reduce stress. If you can't eliminate a stress factor in your workplace, try to find ways to manage it,
such as deep-breathing exercises, yoga, stretching, or simply taking a short walk.
*Accept help. If your coworkers want to baby you a little--and you don't mind--then let them.
Consider yourself lucky to be in a supportive workplace. This is a rare and special time in your life and
it would be a shame to have to pretend like nothing is different every day when you're at work!
Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?
Regular mild to moderate intensity, non-weight bearing exercise is generally highly recommended for
women with uncomplicated pregnancies. Studies show no consistent differences between exercisers
and non-exercisers in terms of the rate of spontaneous abortion or rupture, incidence of pre-term
labour, foetal distress or birth abnormalities and ability to carry the foetus full-term.
If you were exercising prior to becoming pregnant, and providing that your pregnancy has been normal
to date, you can continue to carry out the same type of exercise during pregnancy, with some
exceptions - obviously contact sports are out! As your pregnancy progresses and your centre of
gravity changes some exercises may begin to cause discomfort and you may need to modify the
intensity, duration and frequency of exercise to accommodate your growing size.
If you were not exercising prior to becoming pregnant but are experiencing a normal, healthy
pregnancy, you can carry out low to moderate intensity exercise on a regular basis. Begin slowly and
gradually build up your exercise over time - this is not the time to start a new vigorous exercise
routing! Non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming or cycling for up to 20-30 minutes is
Regardless of whether you are a mum-to-be who exercised previously or not, it is imperative that you
follow a few rules about exercising safely through your pregnancy. Seek advice from your Doctor or
midwife before you start exercising and have regular appointments with your health care provider.
Are there any times when I shouldn't exercise?
Exercise during pregnancy is not recommended under certain circumstances. Recognised
contraindications for exercising during pregnancy include:
• Pregnancy induced hypertension;
• Persistent second to third trimester bleeding;
• Pre-term rupture of membranes (waters breaking);
• Pre-term labour during a previous or current pregnancy;
• Incompetent cervix;
• Intrauterine growth retardation.
If you experience any of the following symptoms either during exercise or at rest, you must STOP
what you are doing immediately and seek medical advice:
• Feeling unwell;
• Unexplained abdominal pain;
• Bleeding or sudden gush of fluid from the vagina;
• Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face;
• Swelling, pain and redness in the calf of one leg;
• Excessive fatigue, chest pain and or palpitations;
• Insufficient weight gain (less than 1kg/month during the last two trimesters).
Will exercising benefit my baby?
Exercising during pregnancy provides numerous health benefits for mother and baby. Health benefits
for mum include:
• Greater energy reserve;
• Reduced back pain during pregnancy;
• Improved digestion and reduced constipation;
• Shorter active phase of labour and generally less pain;
• Facilitation of recovery from labour;
• Less weight gain;
• More rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight, strength and flexibility;
• Reduced "postpartum belly";
• Fewer obstetric interventions;
• Enhanced psychological well-being;
• Enhanced physiological well-being.
Health benefits for baby include:
• Leaner baby with less fat;
• Less behavioural or chemical signs of undue stress;
• Labour is generally less traumatic for both baby and mother;
• Vigorous babies, that do well at birth.
What type of exercise should I do?
The type of activities that you carry out as part of your exercise programme is up to you, but
generally you should include:
• Aerobic exercise such as swimming, walking and cycling.
• Muscular strength and endurance exercises, especially for the core muscles (back and tummy).
Weights (whether machines or free weights) should be used for conditioning purposes only - use
lighter weights and higher repetitions.
• Flexibility exercises. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and many maternity hospitals
run classes especially for pregnant women. Note that during pregnancy a hormone known as relaxing
is released, which causes the ligaments around the joints to become very lax. Pregnant women
therefore tend to become extremely flexible, and sometimes damage around the joints can occur
because the ligaments are over-stretched, so caution should be used when stretching.
• Pelvic floor/Kegel exercises. These exercises are very important to help strengthen the muscles in
the vaginal area. Strong pelvic floor muscles mean that you are less likely to tear your perineum
during birth, less likely to need an episiotomy, more likely to have an easier birth and less likely to
experience leakage or incontinence in the future. Pelvic floor exercises can be carried out any time
and should be incorporated as part of your daily routine.
To locate your pelvic floor muscles imagine trying to stop and start the flow of urine while going to
the bathroom. Practise tightening and relaxing the muscles repeatedly throughout the day, holding
the muscles tight for up to 5-10 seconds before releasing.
Exercise dos and don'ts
• Learn to listen to your body;
• Carry out exercise that suits your current level of fitness, for a length of time suitable for you and
at an intensity whereby you are comfortable;
• Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing, including a good fitting sports bra and shoes with arch
• Exercise in a safe, well-ventilated environment;
• Include controlled stretching and relaxation
• Keep well hydrated;
• Ensure you are eating a well-balanced adequate diet - it is recommended that approximately 300
more calories per day should be eaten during pregnancy.
• Don't carry out any exercise that requires you to lie on your back (the supine position) after the
first trimester such as sit-ups. This position can cause distress to the growing foetus by limiting the
• Avoid standing motionless for prolonged periods of time.
• Do not let your temperature rise above 100 F or 37.78 C
• If using weights avoid lifting them above your head and use lighter weights than normal with higher
• Do not dehydrate - keep well hydrated, drink small sips of water throughout your exercise routine.
• Do not exercise to exhaustion - avoid over-fatigue.
• Changes to your body shape and posture during pregnancy mean that some activities, especially those
that require a certain amount of dexterity and movement such as tennis, badminton and step classes,
carry an increased risk of injury as a result of falling. You should therefore limit these activities,
especially in the third trimester.
• Avoid any type of exercise that could potentially cause even mild trauma to the abdominal region.
• Resume exercise after the birth slowly and give yourself time to recover.
• If for any reason you have to undergo exercise testing avoid maximal testing.
Is it safe to travel during pregnancy?
In general, it is safe to travel during pregnancy if your pregnancy is a healthy one and you have not
encountered any complications or problems. In fact, taking a relaxing holiday with your partner or a
close friend or family member before the arrival of your baby is an excellent idea - it will give you a
chance to spend some time together and give you an opportunity to catch up on much-needed rest.
However, when you are pregnant you need to give careful consideration to the potential problems
associated with international travel, as well as the quality of medical care available at your destination
and during transit. Attention to comfort also becomes more important.
What about flying?
Commercial air travel poses no particular risks to a healthy pregnant woman or her baby.
Obstetricians recommend that the safest time for a pregnant woman to fly is during the second
trimester (18 24 weeks) when she usually feels best and is in least danger of experiencing a
miscarriage or premature labour. Women in the third trimester (25 36 weeks) may be asked by their
physicians to stay within a few miles of home because of concerns about access to medical care in case
of problems such as hypertension, phlebitis, or false or premature labour.
The final decision to fly should be based on consultation with your healthcare provider so always
discuss your plans with them first.
When making your flight reservations it is a good idea to check your airline's policy on pregnant
travellers as some will require medical forms to be completed. Domestic travel is usually permitted
until 36 weeks gestation, and international travel may be curtailed after the 32nd week.
In terms of comfort, an aisle seat at the bulkhead will provide the most space, but a seat over the
wing in the midplane region will give the smoothest ride. Also, you will probably want a seat quite near
Some other precautions to note are:
• Try to take a short walk up and down the aisle every half hour during a
• Flex and extend the ankles frequently to prevent swelling and aid blood
• Always fasten the seat belt at the pelvic level.
• Take fluids (non-alcoholic) liberally to counter the effect of low humidity
in aircraft cabins.
Women travelling with infants should keep in mind that babies younger than 6- weeks-old should not
fly because their alveoli are not completely functional. Infants are particularly susceptible to pain
during pressure changes at take-off and landing; breastfeeding or bottle-feeding during ascent and
descent relieves this discomfort.
Under what circumstances is travel inadvisable?
Women with obstetrical or medical risk factors are not advised to travel during pregnancy. This
includes women with:
• a history of miscarriage;
• an incompetent cervix;
• a history of ectopic pregnancy (ectopic with present pregnancy should be ruled out prior to travel);
• a history of premature labour or premature rupture of membranes;
• a history of or present placental abnormalities;
• vaginal bleeding or threatened miscarriage during their present pregnancy;
• multiple gestation (more than one foetus) in present pregnancy;
• a history of toxemia, hypertension, or diabetes with any pregnancy;
• a history of infertility or difficulty becoming pregnant;
• primigravida (a woman who is pregnant for the first time) and who is older than 35 years or younger
than 15 years.
Women with general medical risk factors such as valvular heart disease, severe anaemia, a history of
thromboembolic disease or conditions requiring frequent medical attention may also be advised against
If you experience serious problems such as bleeding, passing tissue or clots; abdominal pain, cramps or
contractions; excessive leg swelling; headaches or visual problems or if your waters break seek medical
For obvious reasons, even if your pregnancy is a healthy one and you do not have any risk factors, your
healthcare provider may advise against travel to destinations that may be hazardous to your health
and the health of your baby such as:
• areas of high altitudes;
• areas endemic for or with ongoing outbreaks of life-threatening food- or insect-borne infections;
• areas where chloroquine-resistant plasmodium falciparum is endemic;
• areas where live virus vaccines are required and recommended.
What should I pack in my first-aid bag?
Common problems experienced by pregnant women during travel are the same as those experienced at
home: fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, vaginal discharge, leg cramps, increased frequency
of urination, and haemorrhoids. Such problems, while uncomfortable, can be treated with rest and/or
over-the-counter remedies. If you are prone to some of these common complaints of pregnancy take
the precaution of carrying some remedies with you. You should also make a few additions and
substitutions to the usual travel first-aid kit. Use the following list as a guide:
• Talcum powder;
• Oral rehydration packets;
• An antifungal agent for vaginal yeast;
• Insect repellent containing a low percentage of Diethyltoluamide (DEET);
• Sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor).
In addition, women in their third trimester may want to carry a blood pressure cuff and urine
dipsticks to check for the presence of protein and sugar, both of which would require attention.
Ask your pharmacist or GP for advice on anti-malarial and anti-diarrhoea medications.
If you are pregnant and planning to travel, the checklist below will provide a general guideline for
• Make sure your health insurance is valid during your time abroad and indeed throughout your
pregnancy. Check to see if your policy covers a delivery should it take place abroad. It may be
advisable to obtain a supplemental travel insurance policy and a prepaid medical evacuation insurance
• Check medical facilities at your destination. If you are in the last trimester, medical facilities
should be able to manage complications of pregnancy, toxemia, and caesarean sections.
• Determine beforehand whether prenatal care will be required abroad and, if so, who will provide it.
Make sure prenatal visits requiring specific timing are not missed
• Check ahead of time whether blood for transfusion is screened for HIV and hepatitis B at the
destination. Take note of your blood type and that of your companion(s).
• Check facilities at the destination for availability of safe food and beverages, including bottled
water and pasteurised milk.
• Always carry documentation stating your expected date of delivery (EDD).
At all times, you should consult your GP. The above is intended for guidance purposes only. If
you have any further queries in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact the
Occupational Health Office.