‘Pregnant women should not be exposed to coronavirus in the workplace’

'Pregnant women should not be exposed to coronavirus in the workplace'
A precautionary approach should be taken, urged the work environment watchdog. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Pregnant women should not have to carry out tasks that risk exposing them to the coronavirus in the workplace, according to a new decision by the Swedish work environment watchdog.

The decision relates to a health and safety representative's request that pregnant staff should not have to work with infected patients at a hospital's Covid-19 ward in the Värmland region, but the Swedish Work Environment Authority said it would make the same decision in similar cases.

“Pregnant women should not have tasks where they are exposed to the new coronavirus,” said Ulrika Scholander, a senior officer at the Work Environment Authority, in a statement.

The authority stresses that working during pregnancy is usually, if possible, good for the woman's overall health, but that a precautionary approach should be taken due to the limited knowledge about how the coronavirus affects pregnancies – with “more protective measures rather than too few”.

“Unfortunately, the state of knowledge regarding how the pregnant woman, the fetus and the newborn child are affected by the coronavirus is still unclear. But there are studies that indicate that the infection can increase the risk of premature birth, caesarean section and growth retardation in the fetus,” said Jenny Persson Blom, infection risk expert at the Work Environment Authority.

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Sweden's Public Health Agency has not named pregnant women as a high-risk group as some other countries have done, saying that based on current knowledge, pregnant women do not appear to be at a higher than average risk for serious illness from coronavirus.

But respiratory illness in late pregnancy can pose a risk, and the Public Health Agency advises pregnant women and particularly those in the late stages of pregnancy to be especially careful in following the agency's general guidelines – such as washing hands regularly and thoroughly.

Those who are pregnant and also have another risk factor, such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, have also been urged to be especially cautious. That means speaking to a doctor or midwife and limiting contact with people outside your household as much as possible. Read the Public Health Agency's full advice for pregnant people here, or contact your doctor or midwife.

Read the Swedish Work Environment Authority's decision here (in Swedish).

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