5 Signs to Stop Working During Pregnancy

Are you pregnant and wondering when to go on maternity leave? Here are the top warning signs to stop working during pregnancy and the reasons you should.

Signs to Stop Working During PregnancyMy first pregnancy went smoothly… that is, until I hit that last and final month.

I struggled to walk, bracing myself for the inevitable pain in my pelvic bones and hips. I felt heavy and waddled like a penguin, short of breath. And let’s not even get into the sleepless nights and waking up five times a night to pee, leaving me barely able to function the next day.

I was so exhausted, so drained, and so over everything.

But like many pregnant employees, I wanted to save my maternity leave for after the baby was born, not before. I wanted to use that time to bond with him, push back the need for childcare, and recover from delivery.

Except for many of us, the signs to stop working happen much sooner than when the baby arrives.

The decision to stop working, as I’m sure you’ve realized, isn’t always so clear. Financial reasons, maternity leave benefits, and health issues are just some of the factors that sway our choices.

Still, you might be finding that the signs are glaring you in the face, regardless of what stage you currently are.

Pay attention to these signs to decide whether to keep working or not. Of course, your doctor is the first person to ask whether to stop working. Pregnancy complications and the baby’s safety take precedence. But other times, it’s more of an internal gut check combined with listening to your body.

So, when should you stop working? Take a look at these signs and whether they apply to you:

1. Preterm complications

Every mom’s goal in pregnancy is to avoid preterm delivery. If you’re seeing signs of preterm complications, it may be time to talk to your doctor about stopping work. Maybe you have high blood pressure, cramping, vaginal bleeding, Braxton Hicks contractions, or unusual swelling.

Your doctor might also pull you out of work if you’re having issues with dilation, your mucus plug, or any symptoms that might lead to preterm labor. For instance, you may not have pre-eclampsia, but your levels could be close enough that she can monitor your urine for a few days.

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2. You have a high-risk pregnancy

Many moms—like myself with my first son—are “lucky” in that we were able to avoid many complications throughout the pregnancy.

But others have plenty of complications to contend with, from gestational diabetes to high blood pressure to anemia. And having twins and multiples—like I did when I became pregnant again—automatically makes your pregnancy high-risk.

With a high-risk pregnancy, you have more complications to contend with. Working until your due date may not be possible when you can barely walk or are placed on bed rest. Anyone with a high-risk pregnancy tends to stop working sooner than those without complications.

3. You physically can’t perform well at work

Some jobs are more taxing than others. Think bartenders, pharmacists, nurses and doctors, hairdressers, or waitresses who are on their feet all day.

Others are physically demanding even without pregnancy, like loading items at a retail store. And still, others pose risks you wouldn’t think twice about if you weren’t pregnant, like training dogs.

Every decision is personal and practical. While you wouldn’t quit your desk job the minute you get a headache, you also need to weigh the impact of working against your health risks. We’re not talking petty reasons—there truly are legitimate excuses to get out of work while you’re pregnant.

Being unable to do work you normally would perform well is a sign to decide how much longer you can keep going in these conditions.

Excuses to Get Out of Work While Pregnant

4. You can’t keep up with work demands and pressure

That said, even typical “desk jobs” can be a challenge, from sitting all day to barely being able to stay awake. You’re finding it hard to concentrate like you used to or dread coming in to work to face the day’s challenges. Maybe morning sickness, fatigue, and even vomiting never eased after the first trimester.

Even if your job isn’t physically demanding, the emotional toll can also add stress and anxiety. And if you work in a toxic environment—rife with office drama or stress-ridden duties—these “invisible” pressures can be a sign to stop working.

5. You still have a lot to prepare

Not everyone can prepare ahead of time, or perhaps you’re the “I’ll deal with it later” type. If you find yourself nearing the end of your pregnancy and nowhere near ready to welcome the baby, it may be time to use the last few weeks to prepare.

The countdown to the big day could also be adding extra pressure if you feel unprepared. Stopping work the last few weeks can be a smart choice if it means not feeling overwhelmed.

How to survive pregnancy at work

If you decide to keep working, what are a few things you can do to make the time more manageable? Here are a few survival strategies to try:

  • Bend at the knees, not the waist. If you need to lift anything off the ground for whatever reason, bend at the knees to lift it up instead of at the waist.
  • Practice simple meditation. Even counting your breath or slowing it down can ease your state of mind.
  • Get lower back support. Place a cushion or pillow on your chair to support your back.
  • Stash healthy snacks. These can help stave hunger or give you something to nibble on throughout the day. If you have severe nausea, bland food like crackers and ginger tea can help.


Ask a room full of moms when each plans to stop working, and you’ll likely get a variety of answers.

If you’re trying to decide when to stop, certain signs can point the way. The most common reasons to stop working are based on your doctor’s orders. You might have pre-term complications that make it necessary for you to stop, or a high-risk pregnancy that demands more rest than work.

Other times, you need to weigh your work against the health risks that can arise. Your job might not be suitable for the condition you’re in, or you can no longer perform well in the workplace.

The decision can be more personal, like wanting to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed by using those last few weeks to prepare for the baby.

With pelvic pressure, sleep deprivation, and waddling like a penguin, I decided to stop working one week before my due date. It turned out out though that my son was ready, and he was born the day after my last day of work.

Because sometimes, you can only plan so much before someone else makes that decision for you.

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