Working While Pregnant in Third Trimester

Did you continue working full-time through your third trimester? Honestly, it’s kind of a wonder you’re able to do anything during those final weeks when you can’t even tie your own damn shoes. This guest post from Queen Calm does a great job summing up the trials and tribulations of dragging your pregnant ass to work when you are very, very pregnant.

According to my doctors, I’m exactly 35 weeks pregnant today. According to my body, I’m exactly 55 weeks pregnant.

While every day brings a new surprise and ailment my way, I’m still expected to hit the office and smile and compute like everyone else. And it sucks. In my brain I thought I’d take off a bit before I gave birth, to help accommodate all my doctor’s appointments but also to rest before the baby arrived. When my doctor stated she wouldn’t sign off on my leave unless a more serious medical condition presented itself I almost cried. I have so long to go.

My pregnancy was a choice I made, so while I don’t regret the discomfort I think some moaning is still warranted. It’s like how friends and I used to compare how terrible we felt the morning after a particular fun night out: yes we all felt like death and occasionally wish we could take our choices back, but mostly we’re super happy we decided to infuse that watermelon with vodka and we’re adults so whatever.

Even though I still have a few weeks to go, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms that make work not nearly as painful as it could be, given the fact I’m constantly wetting myself and need to eat exactly every three minutes. I thought I’d share them with the internet, in case there are others out there like me who wonder how they’ll survive the next few weeks. Here’s my suggestions on how to survive life at the office in your third trimester:

Give in to leggings.

I remember reading accounts from other pregnant woman about how they lived in leggings their third trimester. I also remember being dumb and judgmental about it, thinking about how I would wear professional maternity clothing because I’m a professional or whatever. To these random women on the internet: I’m sorry I ever judged you. I can’t remember the last time I wore real pants to work. My go-to professional dress is now a nice tunic or dress over leggings. I dress up dowdy single-color maternity dresses with scarves or distracting bracelets. It works for me.


All the snacks, everywhere, in my cubicle all the time. I felt bad for the very nice colleague of mine that can probably hear every crunch of every carrot stick, but hopefully I have the pregnancy card to play and she realizes this shall pass. Or wears headphones.

The more brainless the task, the better.

I seek out projects that really just require me to check preexisting work, pull documents, or even enter dumb numbers into my dumb computer. Anything requiring thoughtful analysis on my part seems to take twice as long as it used to, and I seem to second-guess myself more than before. I’m not saying I don’t pull my weight at the office – in fact, I’m volunteering for more work than ever before. But I try to grab projects that I know I can do in my sleep, because honestly I’m so sleep-deprived third trimester you don’t want me doing much heavy lifting. My brain is also constantly distracted by random pains or emergency bathroom trips to focus on anything for long periods at a time. Depressing but true.

That leads me to bathroom breaks.

Assess your closest bathrooms, and have a back-up bathroom on hand in case it’s occupied and you suddenly realize you are about to wet yourself. This happens to me at least once a day – I stand up from my computer to get a drink of water or to mail something and realize I have exactly one minute before I wet myself. My son is sitting very low though, so maybe my urgency is unique. Also if you’re the sort of person who likes to pretend you don’t have bodily functions in the presence of others I suggest you get over it. People WILL notice how often you run to the restroom and having a sense of humor about it is the only thing you can do (unless adult diapers are your thing).

On a less physical note, connect with your colleagues.

One of the best things about my current ailments is I’ve discovered so many of my colleagues understand what I’m going through. I’ve been able to connect with people I haven’t before, and it’s made my experience at work so much more pleasurable when I can joke with co-workers about my waddle or swollen feet at the water cooler. Co-workers that seemed distant before are happy to share stories about their own children or nieces and nephews. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know people at my office on a different level, which can only help improve our work environment. Note: this may not work for you if you’re office is full of the sort of people who want to dole out advice on how you should raise your child, or how you’re doing it all wrong. I worried so much about these reactions I didn’t talk much about my pregnancy to begin with, but once I opened up a bit I was really pleased to discover my colleagues are normal, nice people who’ve lived through similar experiences. Humanity!

Own the appointments.

If you’re like me and have a billion doctors’ appointments towards the end of your pregnancy, own it. Remember you are a professional and having a doctor’s appointment doesn’t make you any less good at your job. For me, one of the most difficult things about expecting my first child is learning to weave impending expectations related to motherhood with my own sense of self. I try to view these new aspects of my life as complementary and not competing. Yes, 2-4 doctors’ appointments a week takes me away from my desk more than I’d like. But because of this care I’m confident in my baby’s health and can focus on the task at hand when I’m at the office (unless I need to run to the bathroom . . . again). I also think that displaying this confidence, even if it’s just for show, tells others to take me seriously and not write me off as a new mother who doesn’t care about her job. Because I love my job!

I wish I had more snarky points about being awkward at the office, but honestly besides the discomfort, ranging from mild to extreme in any given day, I am glad I am working right now. Without the office I would be sitting at home, trying to set up my nursery but getting breathless and instead sitting on my couch twiddling my thumbs/Googling my symptoms to feed my anxiety. So thank you, mean doctor, for not signing off on my leave despite my intense desire every morning to just give in to my ailments. My paycheck and sanity thank you.


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  • The point about pregnancy being a choice and comparing it to a night out is honestly kind of strange. When you opt to drink too much and partying hard you KNOW you will be hungover. With pregnancy, you don’t really know how it will go until you actually get pregnant. Lots of folks who go on disability sometimes do so due to injury and many times these injuries are due to an activity they “chose” to do. Does that mean they shouldn’t be able to go on disability?
    I live in CA and get a full 4 weeks before due date and I am honestly starting to feel like this should be part of FMLA. I cannot imagine working all the way till my due date!

  • This made my day! Almost at 36 weeks now and planning on working up until delivery (I work for a small company and live about a quarter mile away from the office). I’ve definitely felt guilty about all the doctor’s appointments since our doctor is a little over an hour away…but today was the first day I decided to just rock the leggings/tunic look and I wish I’d done it sooner! We have stand-sit desks so I can try to manage the puffy feet thing…but that’s a losing battle more often than not 🙂

    • Only in certain states is this true (and by certain states, I mean only CA). No other state allows 4 weeks off prior to the birth without consent from the doctor.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I day I have to go to the bathroom. I didn’t think it was humanly possible- I was wrong! Also, I find that by the time 4 o’clock hits, I’m ready for a nap. It’s hard staying awake in the last trimester or focus on creating "amazing" copy.

  • 25 weeks with twins and I already feel like I’m in the third trimester. I think it’s ridiculous that an OB won’t write you out a few weeks before your due date in any pregnancy… ah, the good old U.S. of A. and our ridiculously pathetic maternity policies.

    I’m scheduled to be induced at 37 weeks due to my high risk and I’ve already decided that I’m going to play the work from home card as much as possible a month before my due date and go out on medical leave at least 2 weeks before my c-section. Stay strong, mamas! Pregnancy is temporary.

  • At almost 35 weeks, my greatest nemesis has been my office chair. I have taken up the sexy practice of having both a lumbar support cushion and a heating pad on. I may look 80 years old, but at least it cuts back on my back-pain-fueled fury!

  • I planned on working right up until 40 weeks, but I was so miserable I gave up about a week before. But I DID choose my desk based on bathroom proximity when they reorganized the seating.

  • This is so true! Also 35 weeks and planning to work until I’m not allowed to anymore or until I go into labor. I’m a teacher so I’m on my feet a lot and walking around campus a lot. It’s exhausting. I can’t really check out because I have a gaggle of children depending on me to be on top of it. So that’s all I do. Work and go home to rest. Thank goodness for an amazing husband and partner! My students are so curious and are really great at giving me latitude when I’m eating all day or have to leave the room to pee. Thankfully they are 9 & 10 and can be left alone for a few minutes….

  • I’m at 38 weeks and still working, though have some flexibility to work from home – which sounds like a great option, and would be if we hadn’t moved across the country and bought a new home during the third trimester too. (Working from home is harder when you feel like there are too many things that need to be done there.) Combined with the fact that I was still traveling for work until 36 weeks, and have been posting 14-16 hour days trying to wrap up my project load, it sort of feels like labor and a newborn will be a cakewalk in a couple of weeks here. If you do have to travel for work, I recommend updating your "Medical ID" in your iPhone with your due date, OB info, and emergency contact, and carrying a copy of your medical records and birth plan just in case.

    All that said – I’m glad I’m not the only one, and amen to leggings and to connecting with folks at work! Another benefit or tip is to identify your "person" in the office – the one you will send an urgent email to if anything happens and who will also keep you in the loop once you are out for maternity leave.

    Ok, now back to late night nesting…

  • This is so where I’m at right now.

    34 weeks and counting. I can’t tie my shoes. My guy puts on my socks for me. Getting out of bed is harder and harder and I’m forgetting little things at my job.

    At least my job is a desk job and I can get up to pee whenever I need to….

  • My doctor actually tried to get me to take off work early but I had naively planned on working up until the baby arrived. I felt really good through out my pregnancy and the third trimester wasn’t really that bad for me (though definitely uncomfortable) but I still regretted my decision not to take some time off beforehand. Even if you are feeling great, you can get so tired and spacey! Oh and my feet were huge due to relaxing of ligaments and swelling, so I lived in flip flops my entire third trimester. Shoes just didn’t fit my feet.

    Unfortunately, my boss started a big project my last few weeks and I was really regretting the stress and demand on me to concentrate. I was about to give my two weeks notice at 37 weeks but I went into labor that day instead!

  • This is SO TRUE! There have been many times throughout my three pregnancies when I have whined about having to work during the third trimester – but truly, it is tough. Makes me wish I lived in Canada or Europe where adequate time is given BEFORE the birth for the mother to take care of herself…. But that’s another post…

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