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Pregnancy

At UiB it is desirable that pregnant employees and students participate in work and study for as long as possible. Adaptation and follow-up with pregnancy is therefore neccessary.

 

 

Adaptation and follow-up 

Employees

The employee must inform her immediate superior as early as possible in the pregnancy, so that the need for adaptation and special measures can be assessed.

A risk assessment must be performed so as to ensure that the pregnant women have a safe working environment. Previously-known conditions that might involve a risk during pregnancy and the pregnant woman's own opinions must be included in the risk assessment.

Potentially health damaging exposures before and during pregnancy are described on separate pages.

Students

Students who perform practical work in their studies (laboratory, workshop or clinic) are regarded as employees and covered by the Working Environment Act. Managers (academic supervisors/supervisors/project managers/study supervisors/heads of department) are responsible for ensuring that a risk assessment is made and suitable adaptations for pregnancy are made for these students.

Students who do not perform practical work (office) are not regarded as employees and are covered by the Act relating to universities and university colleges. Read more about student learning environments at UiB  

Manager's follow up

When informed by an employee that she is pregnant, the manager must take the initiative in arranging an interview soon thereafter. The purpose of the interview is to reveal any need for individual adaptation (ergonomic conditions, change in working tasks) and further follow-up during the pregnancy. Topics for discussion may include:

  • The work situation at present
  • Review of conditions that might be affected by the pregnancy
  • Need for adaptation

The manager is responsible for ensuring that a risk assessment is performed. The risk assessment (NO) should include:

  • Ergonomic conditions
  • Chemical factors
  • Biological factors
  • Ionising or electromagnetic radiation

Pregnancy is a condition that changes. This demands flexibility in adaptation and follow-up throughout the pregnancy.

Relevant links

Ergonomic conditions and pregnancy

In pregnancy, the opportunity for variation in work is important.

All pregnancies are different. What may be perceived as a strain or stressful varies with the type of work, the work situation and health factors.

Continuous standing and/or walking activities over long periods and work that involves a lot of sitting still can lead to health issues. The swelling abdomen can change the inclination of the lower back and lead to muscular pain. This applies especially to women who work in the same position for long periods. Attention should also be paid to work that involves heavy lifting. The risk depends on the load, i.e. how heavy the load is and how and how often it is lifted.

With issues of this type, adaptation of working tasks, working hours, the opportunity for breaks and more variation may be relevant measures.

Pregnancy and chemicals

Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not be exposed to certain chemicals. UiB has prepared a work instruction for pregnant and breast-feeding woman.

The pregnant woman must thoroughly familiarise herself with chemicals that are to be worked with. What hazards and inherent properties do the chemicals have? The chemical inventory Eco Archive can provide a summary of the chemicals that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding or who wish to have a child must not be exposed to. 

These chemicals can enter the bloodstream after skin contact, swallowing or inhalation and can then enter the blood circulation of the foetus or be ingested in breast milk. 

There must be a special focus on chemicals marked with the hazard warnings:

Hazard code

 Hazard phrase (CLP)

Corresponding risk phrase

H340

May cause genetic defects

R46

H341

Suspected of causing genetic defects

 

H350

May cause cancer

R40/R45

H350i

May cause cancer by inhalation

R49

H351

Suspected of causing cancer

R40

H360

May damage fertility.  May damage the unborn childR60/61

H361

Suspected of damaging fertility.  Suspected of damaging the unborn child

R62/63

H362

May cause harm to breast fed children

R64

H370

Causes damage to organs

R39

H371

May cause damage to organs

R68

H372

Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure

R48

H373

May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure

R48


Also be aware of chemicals that are classified as toxic or very toxic but which are not classified with particular reference to pregnancy or breast feeding.

Pregnant women must not be exposed to cytostatics, which can damage the foetus. Substances that disturb hormones can also damage the development of the foetus.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (NO) lists the following chemical substances as being potentially unsuitable for pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant:

  • weed killer and insecticide
  • medicines such as anaesthetic gases, cytostatics and ethylene oxide
  • organic solvents such as trichlorethylene, toluene, certain glycol ethers and white spirit
  • metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, nickel and manganese. Many of these remain in the body for a long time.
  • rubber and plastic raw materials such as vinyl chloride, styrene, acrylates, formaldehyde and chloroprene
  • poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide and hydrocyanic acid
  • carcinogenic substances

Pregnant women who are to work with chemicals must perform a risk assessment of possible exposure together with their managers.

Pregnancy and biological factors

Pregnant women must avoid work with certain biological factors.

Many biological factors in infection risk groups 2, 3 and 4 may affect the unborn child if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy. Examples of viruses and bacteria that can infect a foetus or a child after birth:

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Tuberculosis
  • Herpes
  • Chickenpox
  • Typhus
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

If a risk assessment shows that there is a high risk of exposure to a very infectious factor, the pregnant employee should avoid exposure completely.

A risk assessment must look at:

  • What biological factors may be present.
  • What poisonous (toxic), allergenic or other damaging substances the biological factors may give rise to.
  • Which infection risk group the biological factors are in.
  • Information about illness caused by the biological factors that the pregnant woman may incur in connection with the work, whether of an infectious, allergic or toxic nature.
  • Whether any special protective or safety measures should be taken to protect pregnant women when they are exposed or might be exposed to biological factors in their working environment.
  • The probability that the health of pregnant women might be damaged by the biological factors.
  • Knowledge about whether a pregnant woman's existing illness may have a direct connection with her work.

At UiB, pregnant women must not work with biological factors in infection groups 2, 3 or 4 that might cause miscarriage or physical or neurological harm. Examples:

  • Rubella virus (German measles)
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cytomegalovirus (herpes)

Assessment of biological factors may also be relevant for travel to countries where the woman might be exposed to bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not normal in Norway. This also includes assessment of the need for vaccination.

Pregnancy and radiation

Exposure to ionising radiation carries a risk for the unborn child.

Ionising radiation

As soon as a pregnant woman informs her employer about her condition, the employer must ensure that the dose to the foetus does not exceed 1 mSv for the remainder of the pregnancy. If the pregnant woman so wishes, the employer must as far as possible offer alternative tasks or relocation.

The Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency gives the following advice:

  • The dose is assessed with certainty to be less than 1 mSv: The pregnant user may continue with the working tasks that she had up until pregnancy without extra precautions.
  • The dose is estimated to be less than 1 mSv: The pregnant user may continue with the working tasks that she had up until pregnancy, with extra precautions if necessary to reduce radiation.
  • The dose is estimated to be greater than 1 mSv: The pregnant user must be transferred to other working tasks with less probability of radiation or to other work with no exposure to ionising radiation.

Non-ionising, electromagnetic radiation

The possibility cannot be excluded that exposure to electromagnetic or magnetic fields may involve an increased risk to the unborn child. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority therefore recommends that exposure is reduced to a minimum with the aid of health and safety measures.

Work at computer screens is not associated with radiation risk. Comparative surveys of pregnant women in various occupations shows that pregnant women who work at screens do not have more problems in pregnancy than other women.