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Carrying out your normal duties during pregnancy

This page provides information about carrying out your normal duties during pregnancy. The guidance has been developed by the RCOG Trainees’ Committee but is also relevant post-CCT.

National guidance (UK)

The Royal College of Physicians has produced a national guideline on occupational aspects of working during pregnancy. The guideline looks at the evidence for adverse effect on pregnancy in relation to physical work, lifting, prolonged standing, long working hours and shift work, including night work.

The evidence suggests only a small risk of preterm birth and low birthweight in pregnant employees working more than 40 hours per week. Therefore, any decision to reduce weekly working hours to below 40 should be made on an individual basis. There’s no evidence to advise the stage of pregnancy at which this should be applied.

There’s no evidence to suggest a risk to pregnant women working shifts, including rotating nights and evenings.

Working as an O&G trainee

Although the evidence suggests shift patterns carry no risk, the physical demands of working on a busy labour ward during pregnancy is a stress that’s unique to O&G trainees. Every unit is different and unfortunately you may experience some controversial reactions if you’re unable to carry out your normal duties (see the guidance on assertiveness at work for some ideas about how to deal with this). However, many units are extremely supportive of pregnant trainees who can’t carry out their normal duties.

If you’re struggling to carry out your normal duties, meet with your clinical supervisor and your employer’s occupational health department to identify areas of work where adjustments can be implemented. A flexible approach to working, with regular reviews with your clinical supervisor, can help you feel more in control. Talking to other female doctors can help you realise you’re not alone – try the forums on the BMA and sites, which provide pragmatic advice. In addition, remember that some of the difficulties experienced in early pregnancy may resolve later, allowing you to resume all or most of your normal duties.

Working reduced hours – impact on ARCP and CCT date

Trainees often stop working night shifts in late pregnancy before going on official maternity leave. It’s important to discuss such arrangements early with your College Tutor and Clinical Director. It may be feasible to swap some night duties for weekend day shifts. Usually this time should continue to count towards CCT, but it‘s the LETB’s responsibility to decide this on a case-by-case basis.