Pregnancy Worries and Your Job

Pregnancy Worries and Your Job | CorporettePregnancy worries can run the gamut from childbirth to health issues to being able to conceive in the first place. Add in concerns about how your job will be affected by your pregnancy (to say nothing of parenthood), and you’re dealing with a TON of worry.  But is it as bad as future moms might think — and is there any point to worrying about it before it happens (or is that similar to Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts on “leaving before you leave“)? We’ve talked about many aspects of being pregnant — negotiating future maternity leavehandling frequent doctors’ appointments, working through first trimester exhaustion, and how to announce your pregnancy at work — but we haven’t touched too much on the worries that can loom large when you’re thinking about getting pregnant.  Reader B’s pregnancy worries involve handling her future pregnancy at work, as well as postpartum body changes:

I have a question that I have been looking everywhere to find answers to but have been unsuccessful, probably because the subject matter is TMI for most people and also very personal. I do not have kids yet but my husband and I plan to try in the next 3 years or so. Honestly, there is only one thing holding me back right now and that is my job. I absolutely love my job and plan to return after having a baby (I realize I could change my mind after having a baby), but the problem is that right now I share an office, with a male colleague. (I also realize that my office situation could change in 3 years, but I see no evidence of that happening.) My concern is with figuring out how to deal with bodily changes both while pregnant and after the baby comes and I return to work. I know that women deal with frequent bathroom trips, nausea, bladder accidents, milk leakage. How do I handle that while I office with a male coworker?

Hmmmn. I’ll agree that there are definitely body-related changes both during pregnancy and postpartum — but I worry that Reader B may be putting the cart before the horse here (and, you know, packing the cart with a lot of unnecessary anxiety!). A few thoughts:

a) A lot can happen in three years! If you plan to start trying in three years, recognize that a lot can happen in that time — your officemate could change companies (or, who knows, become a parent himself), your office could move locations, you could get a new job, you could get promoted within the company so you get a new, single office, etc., etc.

b) Not every pregnant/postpartum woman suffers nausea, frequent bathroom trips, milk leakage, incontinence, and more. For those who do, I’d guess that the worst of it is in the first three months postpartum — when you hopefully will be on maternity leave anyway. By the time you get back you’ll hopefully have figured it out. (If there’s one thing that parenthood in general teaches you, it’s that it’s all figure-out-able — even if you know nothing about a certain topic at the get-go.) Take milk leakage, for example. Over at CorporetteMoms, we often recommend printed tops and dresses because, as new moms learn, they hide stains better, whether from milk, spit up, snot, sticky fingers, or more. By the time you’re back at work your milk supply will be much more predictable than it is during the first few weeks, and you’ll be pumping on a pretty strict schedule, so random leakage shouldn’t be too big of a problem. You’ll probably also be emptying both sides at once, so you won’t have to worry too much about leaks during the pumping. Sure, some moms see a picture of a baby or something cute and involuntarily respond with some milk let-down (it’s a little similar to your eyes tearing up) — if you happen to one of these moms, you can just invest in nursing pads to wear in your bra to stop leaks.

c) Even if you do find yourself dealing with uncontrollable milk leaks or incontinence or even just gas (um, not to scare you, but here’s a list of 20 things no one tells you about having a baby from Pregnant Chicken), here’s the thing: everyone will deal with it. Maybe your coworker will laugh it off — maybe he’ll go work in a conference room instead. (And maybe the pumping need alone will lead your boss to give you your own office, if you’re lucky.) It’ll be fine. If anyone is a jerk about it (or your workplace is collectively jerky about it, like, GAH, this recent NYT opinion piece), that’s a problem bigger than your getting pregnant, and one that may rise to a discrimination/harassment level if your company doesn’t make changes.  (Here’s our last discussion on dealing with sexist pig coworkers.)

I definitely get being anxious about kids when you’re on the cusp of becoming a mom. (I won’t go into my own story here, but… yeah, I really get it.) But don’t borrow worry. To every extent you can, enjoy the last few sane years of your life (for a while at least) without worrying about something far off in the distance that you can’t control. Go forward. Live your life. Get pregnant when you want to, and if, afterwards, you involuntarily pee a little or leak milk, everyone will deal — particularly your male coworker. (If he even notices.)

Ladies, what are your thoughts for Reader B? Are you similarly anxious about trying to conceive or getting pregnant, when you’re not even there yet?  How do you deal with those worries? 

Further reading:

  • Top 14 Pregnancy Fears (and Why You Shouldn’t Worry) [Parents]
  • Feeling anxious about your pregnancy? Learn more about the top pregnancy worries [Pregnancy Magazine]
  • Overcoming Your Pregnancy Body-Image Fears [Parents]
  • 20 Reasons Why I Loved Being Pregnant [Parents]
  • 29 Unexpectedly Awesome Things About Being Pregnant [BuzzFeed]

Pictured at top.


  1. Mrs. Jones :

    I didn’t have these problems except for going to the bathroom often. I would definitely not worry about it, although that’s easier said than done.

  2. Anonymous :

    I think people jump to therapy too quickly here in general, but if you are this anxious about something that is, at a minimum, three *years* away (and potentially much more!), I wonder if you don’t have some anxiety issues. The odds are overwhelming you will not be sharing an office with this guy in three years and you have no idea what your situation will be like. You may be in a new job or have your own office or have a female officemate. Three years is such a long time, especially for a younger person in today’s working world, where people tend to move jobs about that often. This kind of extremely hypothetical worrying seems like it could be a symptom of something else that’s wrong.

  3. Anonymous :

    Get some help.

    You deal with all of these things, if they happen, by walking to the bathroom!!

    In 3 years + 9 months to grow it + however long it takes to conceive, you might just move offices anyway.

  4. OK, Reader B acknowledged that circumstances could change in 3 years. For purposes of advice giving, can we pretend Reader B *IS* having an annoying-symptom-laden pregnancy *NOW*?

    Let’s say you’re 6 weeks along and barely able to keep food down and are a 2 minute walk from the ladies’ room — which might as well be 2 hours if you’re suddenly overcome by nausea. How do you handle? Am I just oblivious that my female coworkers would occasionally puke in their trash can??

    • Anonymous :

      With a stash of plastic bags.

    • I honestly don’t know how I would be handling my pregnancy if I didn’t have my own office. I’ve had to lay down on the floor many times (for the first three month, daily, if not more than once a day – and now in second trimester, a few times a week). I’ve closed the door because I’m too sick to do anything but respond to emails. I’m 18 weeks and still sick most days. I was thinking how I don’t know how I would have done it at my old job with no office, just a cubicle…but I guess I would have done it somehow. I think if I didn’t have my own office I would have called off a lot more. As it is, I’m trying to hang on to my sick days for my unpaid FMLA maternity leave. The struggle is real.

      • Meg Murry :

        In an open plan office or cube farm its a lot harder. I wound up calling off more than I probably would have if I had my own office – I had an awful lot of “stomach bugs” for those first 3 months. I also spent a decent amount of time in the ladies room sitting down with my head in my hands hoping I wouldn’t puke, or standing leading my face against the cool cubical dividers. I also took naps in my car at lunch when I couldn’t deal with the tiredness anymore, and I stopped working 2 weeks before my due date because I felt so crappy and couldn’t sit in the horrible office chairs any longer.

        But as others have said, I also counted my blessings that I had enough education to have a desk job, and not be trying to go through this while on my feet at a factory or working in food service, etc.

    • Anonymous :

      If you can’t help it, you throw up where you throw up. But that smells so nasty that I’d immediately address it, office mate or not, pregnant or not. Not everyone throws up when they are pregnant. The usual is to be a bit queasy sometimes, but each pregnancy is different.

      The better q to pose is how to deal with the weird gassiness.

    • Anonymous :


      Pregnant people work all sorts of jobs, like fast food and nail technicians and daycare workers and teachers (who get to pee about 2x/day it seems). Be happy you get to sit and can go to the bathroom without clocking out or getting someone to cover your classroom.

      • True, having an exempt office job makes pregnancy symptoms easier to manage than lots of other occupations. However, responding to a “how do others deal with it” question with “ugh” is not helpful.

        So can we not? Not every question has to turn into a lesson on privilege and perspective.

        • +1.

          What’s with the rude Anonymous comments? If you’re going to be “honest,” at least pick a screen name and own it.

    • Anonymous :

      I have my own office, but yeah, I occasionally puked in my trash can and somehow no one noticed, or just never said anything.

    • Wildkitten :

      You can keep gallon sized zip lock bags at your desk, and zip them up and throw them away after you’ve puked, so the smell is contained.

    • Jitterbug :

      She could try sea bands! I started using them to help me deal with motion sickness on the subway*, and they seemed to help with that, and the packaging says they can help with pregnancy-related nausea as well. They’re only $11, totally drug free so they’re safe for baby, probably worth a try.

  5. Anonymous :

    I wouldn’t dismiss her worries just because this is 3 years away. It’s something she eventually plans to do. I have similar worries but mine have to do with age. I’m currently 36 and I worry that by the time I meet someone and say we decide to settle down and have children it will feel like a whirlwind since I would not have as much time to wait. (People who are younger can choose to get married and wait a few years before having kids.) When I was younger the very thought of being pregnant scared me….that fear is still there albeit now I think that with the right support system one can get through it.

    With regards to bodily changes I know of female academics who find it difficult to deal with things like pumping or nursing when students can just walk into their office. Or even situations where one needs to pump but they are stuck in a field site etc. The male colleague reads like a similar situation to me.

  6. Boston Legal Eagle :

    I haven’t had my baby yet so haven’t dealt with any postpartum issues yet, but I shared an office with a male colleague for about the first 4 months or so of my pregnancy (who has since left so now I share with a female colleague – things can change!), and didn’t have any major issues. I didn’t experience much nausea though, so that may have made a difference. Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, so I’d advise you to just deal with problems if they come up, but you may be pleasantly surprised so don’t worry too much about it now. Which is easier said than done, I know.

    • Me either. I realy NEED to get pregenant now b/c I am over 35 and have risk factor’s, according to my OBGYN, includeing my wieght and body/tuchus placement. To conceive, b/c of my ovuleation cycle, she told me that I need to have sex at least once EVERY day for 7 day’s following ovuleation. YAY!!! That is all well and good, but I first need a boyfreind willing to impregnate me if I do NOT make a withdrawl from the sperm bank. That will cost alot of money that Dad does NOT want to pay for. He said David could do the job for free, but I would NOT want him huffeing and puffeing on top of me for 7 days every month. I also do NOT want for him to see me w/o my clotheing on. I do NOT think he realy knows just how big my tuchus is. FOOEY!

  7. Quite a few men have had pregnant wives, or girlfriends, or sisters, or daughters. They will be aware of many of the pregnancy issues. Some will be helpful, some not. A junior colleague of my father’s (father of 8), once told my mother that Dad had given her a useful tip on handling morning sickness, and she was forever grateful. So my advice would be not to immediately assume that a male colleague will be upset or grossed out or whatever.

    The same as if the OP had a women as her office mate. A female office mate might be helpful, might not.

  8. I don’t know where the OP is getting her information from, but before I was pregnant I read all these scare-tactic articles on places like cracked about pregnancy symptoms and the horrors of giving birth. You will pee your pants! You’ll puke four times a day! You’ll break out in horrible rashes! You’ll be so exhausted you won’t be able to function! The list goes on.

    Some of the symptoms happened, most didn’t, and what happened, I dealt with the same way you deal with other bodily functions at work. OP, the closest thing I can relate it to is getting your period for the first time. You were probably anxious about it when you were 12 or 13, but you just learn to handle it and it becomes a normal part of life. As far as lactation accidents, remember you’ll have some maternity leave to get familiar with the whole nursing thing. It’s not like you’ll be going back to work two days after you give birth (I hope).

    I shared an office with a 23 year old intern when I was pregnant, and I was very queasy for the first few months. I never threw up at work, but I did put an airline puke bag in my purse just in case. I told my office-mate I was pregnant way before I told anyone else just because I didn’t want her to be worried about me if I was acting weird or subsisting on a diet of lemon skittles and apples or sneaking out for doctors appointments or daycare tours during tax season. It was fine. You’ll be okay, I promise.

  9. I’m a little more than halfway through my pregnancy so I’ve yet to address many of these issues. However, I dealt with the better part of a year’s fertility treatments and a fairly rough (constantly exhausted and queasy and with the most unusual eating habits) first trimester while sitting on a trading desk in an open floorplan office. No one had a clue until I announced at 15 weeks (or 13 weeks with a couple of close office friends). You just power through. I promise.

  10. Spirograph :

    I was pregnant in cubicles so even less privacy than 1 male office-mate. FWIW, despite horror stories, pregnancy is not a definite you-can-no-longer-control-your-bodily-fluids sentence. I had none of these problems. Zero. Kat is right: don’t borrow trouble!

    Problems I did have during pregnancy
    Gas: Burp really quietly. Go to the bathroom.
    Discomfort: Bring in a pillow to lean against, a stool to prop your feet on, and take walking breaks.
    Exhaustion: There is no fix for this. Coffee and sunshine are a good start, though.
    Wanting to kill everyone who made a comment about my body or give me parenting advice: Bite your tongue.

    Postpartum, my biggest issue was finding time to pump/and meeting organizers who didn’t understand that I *need* a break to pump. The solution to both of these is getting over your embarrassment and speaking up and making sure other people understand that your schedule has a reason behind it.

    • Spirograph :

      upon further reflection, “exhaustion” also belongs in the postpartum category.

  11. Anon for this :

    I am currently in the middle of my second trimester. This wasn’t a planned pregnancy (I was not allegedly able to conceive, ahem) and I am 38. I am a weirdo for not being anxious at all about having this kid, taking maternity leave, etc.? I am sure it helps that my firm has very generous material leave (18 weeks paid, 12 weeks unpaid), that people actually seem to use it, but I figure everything will work out just fine and I’ll deal with whatever health issues arise. More than anything, I am excited to meet Peanut and integrate him/her into my family!

    • Anonymous :

      Not a weirdo at all! Or if you are, so am I for feeling the exact same way about my sort-of-planned-sort-of not first kid. It was all very chill and it all worked out fine.

  12. Delta Dawn :

    I love the adage that you wouldn’t worry so much what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. I don’t think the office mate in this situation is going to be that worried about it. And if he is, that’s not your problem. You don’t have to apologize for being pregnant!

  13. Anonymous :

    What does the officemate being male have to do with anything? Despite being female, I do not want to be subjected to anyone’s bodily functions, pregnant or no. Take it to the bathroom, please.

  14. I’ve been pregnant and work in a totally open environment. Sharing one office with one guy would be fine. You might want to disclose earlier to him if you are regularly sick in the trash can, but in most work environments you will neither be the first nor the last pregnant person.

    Several people where I work, myself included, had sickness earlier in pregnancies. The other ladies that notice give them a sympathetic grin and keep the info under their hats until the pregnant individual announces.

  15. lucy stone :

    I was terrified of being pregnant at work. The only bad part has been the gas. I’m not walking down the hall every time I need to pass wind and I don’t think I’d make it anyway.

  16. Dip-lo-mat :

    I was pregnant twice in a job where I had to interact with the public, meet adjudication quotas, and sit in a bullpen (not *even* a cube). I brought crackers with me everywhere and went to the bathroom when I had to, even with morning sickness. It’s fine. Your coworkers won’t know you snissed, usually. And when our pregnant admin was barfing in the bathroom at work, she got nothing but discretion and sympathy from the rest of us. This is life! It happens, even at the office. In the big scheme of parenting, these are the least of the challenges.

  17. Step away from the What to Expect When You’re Expecting books. They’re fully of fairly unlikely events that you really only need to know about if they actually happen.

    I shared an office with a man after my baby was born. I was pumping 3x/day. I told him that I’d need privacy for about 20 mins., 3x/day. He was able to work elsewhere, go for coffee, eat his lunch, schedule a meeting elsewhere, etc. during those times. It worked out fine.

  18. I am guessing that Reader B is in general anxious (understandably) about this major life change and is focusing her worries on this fairly minor topic. Reader B, as someone who works in a very challenging field usually with no privacy – this is not something I would let impact your decision to have a child. The changes my body went through were concealed under clothing. Vomiting is usually done in the bathroom. I had horrible nausea but it has nothing to do with an office – it is invisible. If you tinkle a little when you sneeze you wear pantyliners (and the new Thinx underwear). There are pads for milk leakage. Pumping is a pain – I was able to find an empty room but honestly I lost my milk because of illness when my baby was 4 months and it was sad for 2 days and then totally awesome to be free from pumping. If I have another baby I will transition to formula at the end of my maternity leave. Bottom line is your journey and your symptoms and experience will be different but who you sit in a room with at work should not impact your decision.

  19. I agree- don’t worry so far out. However, for anyone reading this in the future, here’s my answer to some of the issues. I work in an open space and had 9 months of horrible nausea and puking. Thankfully, I never actually puked at work, but I did a couple of times on my commute. I carried a gallon ziploc back with me everywhere as well as rice cakes. If I went more than an hour without eating, it was pukesville for me, so I became very good at snacking. Also, while the pukey feeling seemed to be fairly sudden, it was never so sudden that I couldn’t get to the bathroom in time if I was in a place with a bathroom. One thing I did do though when I started TTC (I got pregnant very quickly so YMMV on this) was I changed positions into one where I would be less accountable to others (ex I went from supervising to not supervising). It really did help make the whole thing a lot easier and I’m doubly glad about the decision now that I am returning to work and relying on that flexibility.

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  25. Looking back, I realize that the anxiety I felt during pregnancy (and pre-pregnancy, too) just prepared me to be a mom. There’s always something to worry about with kids. I try to think of worry as “care” but more often than not, it’s shaded with some color of anxiety. As someone who had always had everything in my life planned out and prided myself for being in control, kids have a wonderful way of shifting life and priorities around.

    I also found that everything I anticipated, worried about, and fretted over before pregnancy didn’t happen while I was pregnant. My water *didn’t* break in the grocery store, my work schedule was adjusted without drama, I was able to breastfeed (and then decide to stop!) without incident. I did barf in a parking garage once, though. ;)

    This thread reminded me of a conversation I had with a crusty DMV lady while I was expecting. She was maybe 75 years old, smoker’s voice, yellow-tinged gray hair. She looked at my belly and said “Enjoy this. Being knocked up is the only time you’ll know what that kid is eating, doing, and who they’re with.”

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