Physical activity not a risk during pregnancy

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Physical activity at work is “unlikely” to pose a risk to pregnancy, a report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine has found.

But the guidance, issued by the Health and Work Development Unit – a partnership between the college and the faculty – has recommended that employers consider making “reasonable adjustments” to limit excessive work demands where women experience discomfort and fatigue, particularly later on in pregnancy.

The guidelines follow a review of the evidence of certain common work activities – such as heavy physical effort and lifting, prolonged standing, working long hours and shift working – to gauge whether or not these might adversely affect pregnancy outcomes, such as miscarriage and pre-term delivery or delivering a small-for-date baby.

“Pregnant women can be reassured that these activities do not pose a big risk to their pregnancy. If there is any risk at all, it is likely to be small,” the guidance stated.

“There are also health advantages in remaining normally active during pregnancy.”

Dr Ursula Ferriday, chair of the NHS Health at Work Network, which funded the guidelines, said: “Seventy per cent of the NHS workforce is female and many of them undertake shift work as well as having jobs that involve prolonged standing.

“It’s vital that, as OH practitioners, we know how to advise women in the NHS who become pregnant. However, the guidance will also be useful for OH practitioners in other sectors and other healthcare workers who come in to contact with pregnant women, as well as being reassuring for pregnant women themselves.”

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