We recently asked our Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) community to share their own “behind the scenes” work stories. Dozens of mothers bravely raised their voices about the obstacles that prohibited them from being healthy, productive employees during their pregnancies, including insufficient job security and a lack of compassion from employers. We compiled their responses to make a succinct list employers can refer to when attempting to support employees with HG or other high risk pregnancy complications.
- Listen completely and compassionately. If an employee approaches you and reveals to you that they are suffering from HG, the first thing you need to do is listen. Listen to what symptoms they might be experiencing and what treatment they might be exploring in the coming months. If you don’t have an understanding of what HG is, do your research so that you might fully understand what the condition involves. Visit our “About HG” page to learn about the symptoms, long term health risks, possible complications of HG, and how your employee might be affected.
- Adjust the employee’s hours accordingly. Women report experiencing varying levels of symptoms during different times of day. Some HG Moms might feel less nauseous in the morning, and therefore, would benefit by only working morning shifts. Talk one-on-one with your employee about which hours would be most comfortable. If the employee does not feel able to work any hours at all, discuss ways they can pursue paid maternity leave or qualify for the *Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Offer the appropriate accommodations. HG symptoms often mean the employee will be vomiting consistently throughout the work day (even as often as every ten minutes), it is imperative that the employee be offered an appropriate work space. Appropriate accommodations include: receiving their own office space, so they do not disturb other employees by vomiting in public spaces or receiving a longer period of time for lunch so they might allocate time to secure IV fluids or tend to a PICC line.
- Notify their colleagues as needed. HG patients often experience sensitivity to certain smells or sensations that trigger their nausea, it is important to speak with colleagues so they might censor the work environment from these triggers. For example, if an employee with HG expresses that the smell of coffee triggers their nausea, it would be necessary to notify all employees to refrain from brewing coffee in the common work space.
- Check in with the employee consistently. HG can worsen as the patient enters the second and third trimesters of their pregnancy as dehydration and malnutrition become concerns associated with nausea. It is essential that the employee be checked in with one-on-one on a weekly or daily basis to reevaluate their symptoms. If the employee finds that they are unable to perform even after receiving the appropriate accommodations or are experiencing worsened symptoms, it would be necessary to discuss options of paid leave or resignation.
*Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in January 1993, offers up to 3 months (12 weeks) of unpaid leave, assures job protection, for medical reasons, health insurance is covered.
HG is hyperemesis gravidarum: a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease that may cause malnutrition, dehydration, and debility due to severe nausea and vomiting, and may cause long-term health issues for mom and baby.
- Participate in HG research.
- Become an advocate.
- Make a gift to the HER Foundation.
- Share your story and support other HG moms.
- Become a HER Foundation volunteer.
- Blog about HG and show support for HER.
- Share resources with local health professionals and hospitals.
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