This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.

Week 37: How To Make Your Third Trimester A Little More Comfortable At Work

It’s the home-stretch and the reality of Baby’s arrival is now impossible to ignore. In part, that’s because the third trimester is just so miserable and uncomfortable.. Difficulty sleeping, swollen legs and feet, lower back-pain and indigestion and frequent trips to the bathroom are all a normal part of the package during your last few weeks. (Our co-founder Romy spent most nights of her third trimester eating PB&J sandwiches in the dark at the kitchen table.)

You can plop yourself up on pillows at home, but is there anything you can do to make life a little easier on yourself? In the introduction to her book, Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recalls a moment when she realized that pregnant women should have preferential parking in Google’s employee parking lot since it can be very hard to walk long distances when you’re very pregnant.

If your company doesn’t offer any kind of enlightened accommodations, there are still things you can do to make life a little easier on yourself. This week we offer 7 tips on how to make your workplace a bit more physically comfortable:

1. Bring a couple pillows with you.

Sadly, no, they’re not for sleeping. But sleep is not the only time when you might be considering a pregnancy pillow. Some of you spend 8-10 hours a day sitting at your desk which can be painful for your lower back. Get a small, discreet pillow (it doesn’t have to be anything special) you can put behind your lower back or to shape into a wedge to give your bum an extra lift. Eileen*, who works in human resources, told us she brought her toddler’s old “baby pillow” to squeeze under her when sitting became uncomfortable in her chair.

2. Put your feet up more often (even under your desk).

No special equipment is needed here. It can be helpful to put your feet up if they are feeling swollen or just to improve your circulation so grab an empty box or just a couple of printer paper packs and stack them on top of each other under your desk. A pile of books, a small stool, or piles of paper you don’t really need work just as well.

3. Bring snacks and eat more often (to minimize reflux).

At certain points (or even through most of it) in your pregnancy, you will feel hungry all the time. That’s reason enough to keep healthy snacks at your desk. The other good reason is that during your third trimester, some women get so big they are no longer able to eat regular-sized meals or feel reflux, as their growing babies crowd out room for much food in their stomachs.

If you’re experiencing reflux, Shivani Patel, a maternal-fetal medical specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center advises that you eat 5 smaller meals instead of 3 larger ones.

4. Wear a maternity support belt.

Whether you have to lift any weight or stand often for your work, wearing a support belt can help you relieve hip and lower back pain. Jennifer Taylor said that her maternity belt helped support her belly and back, and she wore it under her shirt, without it being obvious. A maternity belt may make sense for you if you’re experiencing a lot of pain or would just like a little more support around the hips.

5. Wear loose-fitting clothing. And undergarments. Oh, and maybe bigger shoes.

To be at your most comfortable, you can’t feel squeezed in or pinched anywhere. Which means that you may have to upgrade the size of your maternity leave clothing during your last month, or just get comfortable with a more limited range of outfits you can wear to work. But don’t neglect what you’re wearing underneath! With your skin stretching further than you ever imagined it could, itchiness and discomfort aren’t helped out by undergarments that are too tight.

That’s why we loved the fact that Kate Brierley’s helpful product suggestions for easing the aches and pains of pregnancy included suggestions for stretchy maternity underwear, stocking up on nursing bras before you need them (for their size and comfort) and bra extensions (who knew?) which can extend the life of your bra as you grow bigger. Genius.

During Romy’s second pregnancy, she freely admits that she gave up wearing “work clothes” and decided to wear leggings, big tops and a blazer pretty much every day. Every. Single. Day.

Unfortunately many women also find their feet and ankles may swell in the latter part of their pregnancies. Aside from putting them up as often as possible and not crossing your ankles when you’re sitting down, you simply may have to buy some comfortable shoes to tide you over this period.

6. Position yourself near bathrooms.

Some of us, like Elizabeth Deninzon at Accenture, you may work in an environment with no set space, where you can just bring your laptop and pick a seat. If that’s you, be sure to sit close to the bathroom to minimize long walks for frequent bathroom breaks! If you’re not in a position of choosing where you sit at work, you can still make smart choices. If you’re in a conference room for a meeting, sit near the door. And if you’re at an event, be sure to locate the bathroom if you need to make a quick dash for it. 

7. Consider compression leggings if you have to be on your feet.

Patel says, “compression stockings can help by pushing blood out of the legs and to the heart. If you have to stand for a long time, keep moving to increase circulation – shuffle your feet or bend your knees by bringing your lower leg up toward your rear end a few times.” This can be especially important if your work requires you to be on your feet a lot.

8. Ask to work from home

This may not be possible for everyone. But if you are finding you are just having a hard time -- especially with your commute -- explore the option to work at home, at least once or twice a week.  Just not having to get dressed each morning will be a seriously welcome relief. And plus, maybe you can sneak in a nap during lunch.

Hang in there these last few weeks. You’ll be more physically uncomfortable as you approach your due date, but remember that Baby is just around the corner. Despite how it feels now, you will be able to walk and sit without pain again. Until then, take care of yourself and take it easy!

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I was planning to work until week 40, but I'm having a hard time concentrating...

I'm having a hard time concentrating, I feel so huge and uncomfortable and am just generally wondering whether I should just go home most days and start my maternity leave already...even though I was planning on working until week 40. What did other...

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