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Working during pregnancy

Josephine R Fowler, MD, MSc
Larry Culpepper, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Worldwide, women are working during all trimesters of pregnancy for reasons including financial necessity, preservation of insurance, career advancement, and preservation of postpartum leave time. Working pregnant women often request advice and assistance from their clinicians to manage challenges that occur while being pregnant at work. This topic will review issues including the impact of pregnancy on work, the impact of work on pregnancy, workplace exposure, leave time and discrimination, and requesting accommodations to enable pregnant women to continue working.

Topics related to occupational risks and exposure are presented separately.

(See "Overview of occupational and environmental risks to reproduction in females".)

(See "Overview of occupational and environmental health".)


In the United States, the percentage of women in the labor force rose from 30 to nearly 60 percent between 1950 and 2000 [1]. For 2015, 62.1 percent of women ages 16 years and older were anticipated to be in the workforce. Globally, 67 percent of women in developed countries between the ages of 15 to 64 years were employed in 2014 [2]. As the number of women in the workforce has risen, so has the number of women working while pregnant. As an example, for women pregnant with their first child, 66 percent of mothers worked while pregnant in 2008 compared with only 44 percent in the early 1960s [3]. In addition, women are working later into their pregnancies than ever before. In the early 1960s, 65 percent of pregnant women stopped work more than a month prior to delivery, while 35 percent continued working in their final month of pregnancy. By the late 2000s, the pattern had reversed, with 82 percent of pregnant women working until within one month of delivery and 18 percent stopping work earlier. More women are also returning to work within six months after their first birth than in previous decades (21 versus 73 percent from the early 1960s to the period of 2005 to 2007).

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 20, 2016.
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