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Pregnant women 'take two months sick leave'

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Three out of four expectant mothers miss work for health reasons, a new report claims.

A study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology quizzed women over an 18-month period who were initially booked in to Norway’s Akershus University Hospital to give birth on how much time they had taken off from their jobs and why.

Almost 3,000 women answered the questions at week 17 and week 32 of their pregnancies. And the study found that just over 75% of pregnant women had needed to use some of their sick leave.

On average pregnant women took eight weeks off sick, and most needed between four and 16 weeks away from the workplace.

And as pregnancy became more advanced, more women found they needed to take time off for health reasons. Of the women who completed questionnaires, 63% had needed to call in sick by the time they were 32 weeks pregnant.

The researchers found more than a third of the women were missing work due to tiredness or problems sleeping. And 32% took sick leave as a result of mobility issues and pain caused by problems with the pelvis.

Almost a quarter of pregnant women had called in sick due to nausea or vomiting.

Co-author Dr Signe Dorheim, from the division of psychiatry at Norway’s Stavanger University Hospital, said the study had found that working conditions had a major impact on how much time off pregnant women needed.

Other contributing factors included the women’s medical history, the conditions they lived in and how wealthy they were.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Florence

    I was 31 when my son was born after a history of miscarriages.Im now the grand old age of 40 and Kyle is 9.Im happy with one child.
    At the time I was a Staff Nurse on an Orthogeriatric rehab ward. I did change jobs for a couple of years but returned to the ward at the start of this year
    Iwas treated extremely well by my Manager & colleagues. In part as they had seen the distress of my miscarriage history and our Manager at the time was a kindly and supportive Lady.
    However I stopped working at 31 weeks as I was had extreme oedema, protien in my urine and surprise surprise did develop pre- eclampsia.
    The trend that worries me is that lots of these young women are working for longer and longer into their pregnancies. Partly to get time off afterwards and partly for the money.
    I was fortune as my Husband was in a well paid job and we lived in Forces quarters at the time.
    Two of our young Staff Nurses have recently had babies and tried to work upto about 34 weeks.
    They were mainly managed properly and I probarly fussed round them like a Mother Hen.
    Pregnancy is a demanding time physically and emotionally. Its ok for managers to say that people should be able to work as long as possible.Thats fine if you can realistically do lighter duties or perhaps have some time in a clinic area. Although clinic work in my experience has its busy moments too.
    Another thing that worries me is that some of these young women dont take any AL during the pregancy so give them more time off either before or after.Dont get me wrong I understand why .
    However nursing is a physically and emotionally demanding role and when you are pregnant even if you are feeling really well your tolerance is reduced.
    I remember I stopped doing nights at 20 weeks. This was verbally agreed with my Manager & I and noted on my risk assessment. Nowadays you have to get a Doctors note to say you cant manage nights.
    There are many ways Mnangers can help women manage their lives at this special time. Most women have little problems. I was just a bit unlucky. However Kyle arrived 2 weeks early,healthy & gorgeous at 8lbs 4 oz's and my health returned fairly quickly.
    The NHS does offer a better maternity package than many employers.
    However I believe Managers, Occupational Health and the Mums to be them selves need to look more realistically at how long women are working and not allow this practice of saving up all of their leave.
    Also with a bit of planning women can go on to lighter duties. Or reduce hours by adding in an AL day a week for a few weeks.
    These things are possible even in the busiest areas.

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