The topic of pregnancy and childbirth as related to the workplace can be a thorny one. Whilst there have been huge advances in provision for prenatal care, and the introduction of shared parental leave has gone some way to improve women’s options, the return to work after childbirth still proves very difficult for many women.
Pre- versus post-natal care
During pregnancy, employers are obliged to give us time off to attend midwife appointments, or even prenatal yoga sessions. We are then able to take up to a year in maternity leave to bond with our baby. But should we decide to return to the workplace at the end of that twelve months, that’s where the special treatment ends.
It is well known that mothers tend to bear the brunt of any infant illnesses. When a child is sent home from nursery or school, it’s often the mother who takes time off to care for them. And this is often to the detriment of their career progression.
But it’s not just the children themselves who are unwittingly hampering their mother’s chances of promotion. Embarrassing postpartum health issues can also hold women back.
Postpartum health concerns
The most common problem that women experience after childbirth is incontinence due to pelvic weakness. And this isn’t a problem that just goes away by itself. A casual conversation with any mother you know will reveal that grandmothers are just as likely to be afflicted as new mums.
In a recent survey of women in the workplace, 30% said that pelvic health issues had affected their performance at work. 36% said they had felt uncomfortable, embarrassed or anxious at work because of issues linked to their pelvic health. 41% said they had taken time off for health problems they did not feel comfortable discussing with their boss or co-workers.
Another global study predominantly covered the US and the UK. It found that 95% of women thought it would be beneficial for employers to receive training in employee welfare. And it would include postpartum health modules.
Tackling the problem
Women handle this issue in the workplace in any number of ways. Some insist on a desk stationed close to the toilets, and some avoid attending long meetings. But these can be career-limiting choices.
Arguably, lockdown has been a positive change for these women. It is much easier to slip away to the comfort of your own bathroom without the discomfiting gaze of your colleagues. And no one will notice a quick toilet break in a Zoom meeting amid all the various household interruptions everyone is experiencing.
But while some companies may be considering home working as a long term option, it isn’t really a solution. Both women and their employers need to be better educated about postpartum health issues and what can be done about them.
Bladder weakness doesn’t have to be a permanent part of your life. Here at Surescan we specialise in women’s health, and our team can offer help and advice to overcome postpartum pelvic health issues.
For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.