3. Common risks

This page sets out some of the most common risks from working conditions for pregnant workers and new mothers. It is not a complete list – you must think about the specific hazards and controls your business needs.

Posture and position

Pregnant workers and new mothers could be more prone to injury, which may not become apparent until after birth.

Postural problems can occur at different stages of pregnancy, and on returning to work, depending on the individual and their working conditions.

You should make sure pregnant workers and new mothers are not:

  • sitting or standing for long periods
  • lifting or carrying heavy loads
  • using a workstation that causes posture issues

HSE provides general guidance on managing musculoskeletal disorders at work.

Working conditions

Long hours, shift work and night work can have a significant effect on the health of pregnant workers, new mothers and their children. They may also be particularly vulnerable to work-related stressors.

Not all workers will be affected in the same way, but mental and physical fatigue generally increase during pregnancy and following birth.

You should assess the risks posed by:

Risk of physical injury

Some work carries the risk of physical injury, and the consequences for pregnant workers and new mothers can be more serious.

Check whether you need to provide extra control measures, for example to protect them when:

Exposure to harmful substances

Many chemical and biological agents can cause harm to pregnant workers or new mothers. They can also be passed on to their child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

These could include:

There is general advice relating to harmful substances.

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is often not designed for pregnant workers.

Make sure any PPE you provide will be safe and comfortable for them to use, especially as their pregnancy progresses.

Consider measures to take if the PPE is no longer suitable, such as changing their work activity.

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