Avoiding work and social hazards
When you find out that you're pregnant you may have worries about your job or social contacts. How safe is my workplace? Will the demands of my job put my pregnancy at risk? How long can I go on working?
- Chemicals used in manufacturing and other industries - for example, lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, dry-cleaning fluids, paint fumes, and solvents.
- Animals, which present a risk of toxoplasmosis.
- Exposure to infectious diseases, especially childhood rashes.
- Exposure to toxic wastes of any kind.
- Unacceptable levels of ionizing radiation (these are now strictly monitored by government regulation). It's generally accepted that day-to-day exposure to ultraviolet or infra-red radiation given off by equipment such as printers, photocopiers, and computer screens is not dangerous to you or your baby. But just to be extra careful, if you make photocopies every day it's a good idea to keep the top of the photocopier closed when the machine is copying.
Otherwise, if you're a healthy woman, with a normal pregnancy and working in a job with no hazards greater than those you meet in everyday life, you can usually work until close to your expected delivery date.
Infections are caught from the people we come into contact with in our daily life. Although you don't want to become a hermit when you're pregnant, or wear a gauze mask when talking to people, it does pay to be careful - especially around children (see Your risk of infection), or adults who are running a temperature.
Colds and flu won't harm your baby, but do your best to avoid fevers. If your temperature is very high, ask your doctor which medications are safe to take - paracetamol is usually recommended as safe in pregnancy in small doses. You can try using a fan to cool your skin down. Don't take cold or flu medicines that contain antihistamines. There's some evidence that particularly virulent flu viruses can cause miscarriage.
Your risk of infection in social hazards
In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, try your best to avoid contact with anyone, especially a young child, who has a high fever, even if the fever is not thought to be caused by German measles.
If you get mumps when you're pregnant it‘ll run the same course as if you weren't pregnant. There's a slightly higher risk of miscarriage if you get the disease in the first 12 weeks.
You won't be vaccinated against mumps during pregnancy because it's a live vaccine, so could affect your baby.
Chickenpox is rare among adults, so it's uncommon in pregnancy. There's some evidence that the disease can cause fetal malformations.
If you have young children, there's not much you can do to keep away from them if they're ill. If you're a school teacher, be fairly strict about sending home any feverish child.
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