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You’re not quite ready to divulge your happy news, but explaining away your exhaustion and frequent bathroom trips is getting tricky. Or you’re uncertain what sort of maternity leave you’re entitled to and, more importantly, how much of it is paid. These are just a few of the common scenarios you’ll need to tackle as you navigate the next nine months on the job. Our detailed guide will see you through.
Breaking the news
One of the first challenges that comes up at work is deciding who to tell you’re pregnant and when. Notifying your boss first is best; she shouldn’t find out through the grapevine. But sometimes co-workers catch on first. On top of coping with fatigue, nausea and headaches, Stacie Haaga, R.D., a dietitian with the U.S. Apple Association, had to feign concern for a co-worker who thought he’d caught her “illness.” “Finally, I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘You don’t have what I have, trust me,’ ” Haaga recalls.
While the majority of women wait until the end of the first trimester to break the news at work, others choose to delay the announcement as long as possible. Dallas bank executive Catherine Lynch divulged her first pregnancy at nine weeks but waited twice as long the second time around. “People treat you differently as soon as they know,” she says. “I was passed over for additional responsibilities the first time because of my pregnancy and didn’t want that to happen again.”
When you’ve decided the time is right, meet with your supervisor. Have a general idea of how long you’d like to take off for maternity leave, but don’t bring it up unless you want to—there’ll be time later to discuss specifics. And don’t be offended if your boss doesn’t offer congratulations immediately. “He’ll take the news in the context of his own needs and issues,” says OB-GYN Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., associate professor at Case School of Medicine in Ohio and author of 2008’s The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book. That doesn’t mean you have to apologize—having children is your right, whether or not you’re working.
Coping with symptoms on the sly
“Many women are surprised by how crappy they feel,” says Greenfield. Follow these tips gathered from pregnant workers to help deal with common discomforts on the job.
•Sit next to a door during meetings so you can escape to the bathroom more easily.
•Always have a change of clothing, paper towels and mouthwash with you.
•Limit the amount of time you spend in the lunchroom—the smell of brewing coffee or a nuking burrito could make you feel even more nauseous.
•Drink ginger ale or ginger tea in addition to water.
•Use part of your lunch hour to nap in your car or office.
•Take a walk, even if it’s just around the office.
•Stand up and stretch every couple of hours to relieve aches, pains and stiffness.
For lack of focus (“pregnancy brain”)
•Take copious notes and use “cheat sheets.”
•Do your most challenging tasks first thing when you get to work or when you’re feeling your best.
•Say no to requests to take on extra duties until you see how you are handling the basics. Use your e-mail’s calendar program to keep track of appointments and meetings.