I follow a few Facebook pages that are specifically for women in trades. The Facebook pages are a great support to women working in all kinds of male-dominant industries and have been a great platform for women to share their struggles and triumphs at work.
On Sunday, a fellow sister in the trades shared a photo of a space under a building she had to crawl through to work in. She was 6 months pregnant and found it difficult to flip herself around to do the work. She asked others how far in their pregnancy did they stop work.
My stomach turned when I looked at the space this woman had to work in. She explained it was hard to flip around under the building to do her work because of her bump. If I was in her situation I would have sworn and told the boss to get someone who could do the work safely.
But I’ve always worked with my dad when I’ve been pregnant. The bub in my tummy was his grandchild so as a dad and potential grandfather he would do anything to protect his own. Managers that employ women don’t have that connection with their employees.
It’s already hard for us women to get a job in the trades and when we do, we feel compelled to work better and harder, so if we fall pregnant we feel we need to keep working until the end of our pregnancy which is an unrealistic expectation.
Some of the answers that the women share on the Facebook page shocked me. Many worked until they were 38 weeks and explained it kept them fit and every woman was different in how they handled pregnancy.
I’ve shared my scare on here before when I was 28 weeks pregnant with Esther. I pushed myself to work too hard and the night I was in hospital my dad told me I was to do apprentice duties from then on. I remember feeling angry at myself in hospital for pushing myself too hard to prove that I could still work as a pregnant plumber. For me, it wasn’t a boss that pushed me to keep going, it was my pride.
After that experience, I vowed not to push myself in future pregnancies. Any crawling under houses that had to be done when I was pregnant was done by my dad. I would only crawl enough to safely pass tools and materials to get the job done.
The argument that pregnancy is different for every woman is valid, but here’s the thing, there are no guarantees in pregnancy. While we endeavor to work in a safe manner in the trade industry, there is more risk involved working on the tools than there is a woman working in an office environment.
So how far along in pregnancy should you stop working as a plumber? (or any other trade)
My suggestion is to cease doing a large amount of physical work from the start of the third trimester. The reason I suggest this is because it is common for a pregnant woman to experience one or all of the following
- Your bump grows or pops out significantly in the last 12 weeks making it hard to fit under or in between spaces to work
- You are more tired and exhausted which means you can be more prone to making mistakes
- Back aches and pain in the legs and feet start to occur to compensate carrying the extra weight
- You need to keep healthy so any unhygienic work needs to cease so that you are in optimum health when you give birth
- Any work that causes high exertion can cause your waters to rupture or have a small leak prematurely. This was what happened to me.
If you feel that you can still work, ask your doctor whether they recommend for you to do so.
I think it’s also important to speak to your manager about the impending arrival of your baby rather than hiding a bump under your work shirt. You and your manager may be able to think of jobs that you can do in the final months of pregnancy if you want to work further than the start of the third trimester.
It’s also important to have support around you if your work environment is hostile to women. Unfortunately I have no advice in relation to this because I didn’t experience it in my immediate work environment. Being part of a union and confiding in fellow colleagues who are for you will be important at this time. They can be there if you come across negative attitudes and behavior for being pregnant. In Australia it is discriminatory to sack a pregnant employee and is classed as an unlawful termination. For information on your rights at work while being pregnant head here.
For the managers that find themselves in the situation of having a pregnant employee, tread with care. Be open to what your female employee is able to do. Request medical certificates if your employee insists on working in the last trimester. It can be a special time in a business’s life to celebrate the birth of an employee’s baby and it can be a great way to connect with your customers. Pregnancy and babies seem to bring everyone together. Never underestimate the value and attention a pregnant tradeswoman can bring to your business. When handled well, it will be recognized.
If you’re a female tradie, how far into your pregnancy did you stop work? How did your manager and/or colleagues react? If you’re not a tradie, I’d love to hear your thoughts.