Safety, Health and Wellbeing

Pregnancy

Our role is to develop and assist in the implementation of the UWA safety, health and wellbeing programs in order to minimise the risk of injury, illness and property damage.

We provide consultancy and other services to promote best practice and legislative compliance in all University and related activities.

Further Information

The University is committed to providing employees and students with a safe and healthy environment for work and study.

The University recognises that for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, precautions in addition to normal safe work procedures and practices may be required.

This guideline provides a summary of potential areas of concern for those women who are considering pregnancy, who are pregnant or who are breast-feeding.

  1. Working with chemicals
  2. Working with animals
  3. Working with ionising radiation
  4. Undertaking manual handling
  5. Working with computers
  6. Immunisation
  7. Your role in ensuring a safe pregnancy
  8. Contact information
  9. References and links (related policies/documents)

Working with chemicals

Inhalation is the most common route of exposure to chemicals in the typical University working environment. The use of safe work procedures and facilities such as local exhaust ventilation will provide protection.

Skin absorption and ingestion are generally less significant routes of exposure, provided safe work procedures are observed. Everyone is required to use appropriate safe work procedures in accordance with the applicable Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) when handling chemicals.

Exposure to chemicals at levels below recognised exposure limits should not present a risk to you or your foetus during pregnancy or while breastfeeding; however, once you know you are pregnant, you are encouraged to advise your supervisor, or the UWA Medical Centre or your own medical practitioner as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns about a chemical you are using, or the procedures for its safe use during pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding, you should seek advice straight away.

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Working with animals

If you work with animals you have an increased risk of acquiring infections from these animals. While maintaining safe work procedures can reduce the risk of infection, special care must be taken to prevent infections that could have serious effects on foetal development.

For example, cats may harbour Toxoplasma gondii, while pregnant sheep may carry Chlamydia psittaci. If you work with cats or sheep, or with any animal that you may feel may adversely affect your pregnancy, you should seek advice straight away.

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Working with ionising radiation

Levels of exposure to ionising radiation that do not present a hazard to a pregnant woman may be of concern to the developing foetus, particularly between eight and 25 weeks gestation. As many women are uncertain of their conception during the early weeks of pregnancy, special consideration must be given to the use of ionising radiation.

It is very important for you and your foetus that you notify your supervisor, the Radiation Safety Officer or UWA Safety and Health as soon as possible, to ensure that your work is assessed and modifications promptly made to reduce any radiation exposure.

If you work includes using ionising radiation and you become pregnant, you have a choice to either continue working with ionising radiation or take on other tasks. It is possible to work with ionising radiation provided that the Radiation Safety Officer and/or Safety and Health have assessed and defined the actions that must be taken to ensure that the risk to you and your foetus is as low as possible.

If you work with non-ionising radiation and you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, then you should seek advice.

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Undertaking manual handling

Pregnancy brings many changes that are limited to the duration of the pregnancy and a short time following.

A review of tasks undertaken to identify a potential manual handling hazards, needs to be assessed. Some practical control measures that can be implemented include:

  • Review the work tasks undertaken to avoid heavy work duties, in particular avoidance of extremely heavy physical exertion in early pregnancy and a reduction of the physical workload after the third month and again after the six month of pregnancy.
  • Make sure you take a suitable number of rest breaks during the day.
  • With the agreement of your supervisor, you may also be able to change your working hours.

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Working with computers

A good posture always is one in which you are comfortable and well supported by properly adjusted furniture. If good posture cannot be maintained at work using a computer then contact UWA Safety and Health for advice.

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Immunisation

Although the use of many vaccines during pregnancy is contradicted on theoretical grounds, there is no convincing evidence that pregnancy, in itself, should constitute an absolute contraindication to the use of standard vaccines.

Pregnant employees should not be assigned to the direct care of patients with HIV/AIDS.

If you are considering becoming pregnant, you should speak with your doctor about the kind of work you do and your immunisation status. Ideally you should have all the vaccinations you require for your work environment prior to becoming pregnant.

Most vaccinations should not be given during pregnancy but some are regarded as safe while breastfeeding. If you have any concerns about immunisation that may be required for your work, you should seek advice straight away.

With respect to breastfeeding and vaccination, there is no evidence of risk to the breastfeeding baby if the mother is vaccinated with any of the live or inactivated vaccines. Breastfeeding does not adversely affect immunisation and is not a contraindication for the administration of any vaccine to the baby.

Vaccine immunisations

Cholera
There is no evidence of risk to the fetus. Cholera vaccine may be given to pregnant and lactating women.
Diphtheria
Is safe in pregnancy and lactation.
Hepatitis B
Is recommended for pregnant women at risk of Hepatitis B.
Immunoglobulins
No known risk to the fetus from passive immunisation of pregnant women with immunoglobulins.
Influenza
Considered safe in pregnancy.
Japanese Encephalitis
Is recommended for pregnant women at risk of acquiring Japanese encephalitis.
Meningococcal infections
No documented adverse events in pregnant women.
MMR or rubella vaccine
All pregnant women should be tested for immunity to rubella, and susceptible women should be vaccinated immediately after delivery.
Poliomyelitis vaccine
Can be administered to pregnant women who are at substantial risk of exposure to poliomyelitis infection.
Q Fever
Review with medical practitioners.
Rabies
Can be used as required.
Tetanus
Is safe in pregnancy and lactation.
Typhoid
Should be based on an assessment of the real risk of disease.
Yellow fever vaccine
Pregnant women who must travel to an area where the risk of yellow fever is high should receive yellow fever vaccine.

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Your role in ensuring a safe pregnancy

Speak with your treating doctor prior to becoming pregnant about the kind of work you do and your concerns.

Notify your supervisor, relevant school/section personnel, or contact Safety and Health as soon as possible about your pregnancy, so that an assessment and appropriate modifications can be made immediately to your work to minimise risks to your pregnancy.

You can request that the information about your pregnancy is maintained as confidential. Contact the UWA Medical Centre or your treating doctor for confidential medical for advice and support.

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Contact information

For assistance and further information with implementing these guidelines please contact UWA Safety and Health.

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References and links (related policies/documents)

This guideline has been developed in reference to the following documents:

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