The test came back positive, and with it, a rush of questions and concerns … including how to tell your boss you’re pregnant after loss. You turn to Google for help. But none of the articles you read tell you what to do in pregnancy after loss. (And doesn’t that last part of that phrase change just about everything?)

pregnant woman at work - how to tell your boss you're pregnant after loss

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We at Pregnancy After Loss Support know that traditional pregnancy wisdom (and we use the term “wisdom” lightly) doesn’t acknowledge the complexities inherent to pregnancy after loss.

So here’s what you really need to know about when and how to tell your boss you’re pregnant after loss.

When to tell your boss you’re pregnant

Almost all pregnancy guides will say something like, “Most women wait until they are in the ‘safe’ zone to tell their employer.”

Unfortunately, we all know this zone is a myth. Babies can die at any gestation and babies can be born at any gestation, and unfortunately, no time in pregnancy or after birth is guaranteed to be safe.

When you decide to tell your boss is a personal decision, one that should be based on your preferences and your previous pregnancy experiences. As you decide when to break the news, you may want to consider the following:

Will telling your provider in the first trimester be beneficial?

If you are at a higher risk of a first-trimester loss, would it be helpful for your work to have a heads up? Would you rather tell them you had a miscarriage, if that happens, instead of calling in sick? Just as you have rights when you are pregnant, you have certain protections with a loss before 20 weeks. Here is a guide to help you know your rights in case of a first or second-trimester loss.

Will you have a lot of appointments?

If your practitioner is following your pregnancy closely, you may need more time off to take care of your medical needs. If your employer knows ahead of time, you can collaborate to create a schedule that accommodates everyone’s needs.

Are you experiencing work-impacting symptoms?

If you are experiencing horrible morning sickness, have gestational diabetes, are monitoring your blood pressure, or are experiencing any other symptoms that are impacting your ability to work – you should let your employer know. You have the right to have accommodations to help you manage your pregnancy and your job.

Do you need accommodations?

There are many reasons you may need work accommodations. Some work is simply unsafe for pregnancy. Other work may be uncomfortable. Your work schedule may prevent you from properly caring for yourself. And sometimes, your symptoms and risks mean you just need more support at work. If you need something at work to change so you can properly care for you and your baby, it’s time to announce your pregnancy AND ask for the accommodations you need. Here is a list of possible accommodations you might ask for. When asking for accommodations, be sure to have a note from your doctor that specifically states what you need for work.

Is your pregnancy high-risk?

Even if this pregnancy is going perfectly, find out if your provider considers you high-risk based on your history. If your pregnancy is high-risk, be sure to ask your doctor what concerns they may have and what they may need you to do differently. For instance, you may need to travel to see a high-risk doctor and be seen by both physicians. You may have earlier and more extensive testing done. Or you might be more likely to need to be on bed rest. Have a candid conversation with your provider about your risks. And then give your employer the notice they may need so they are not in a pinch if you suddenly are on leave. (See this article for questions you can ask your provider about your pregnancy after loss.)

How did your employer respond with your previous pregnancy announcement or subsequent loss?

This may not be your first pregnancy announcement. And the way your work treated you either after your announcement or after your loss will impact how comfortable you feel announcing now. Consider if the overall environment was supportive – or if they lacked in the caring support you needed after your loss. Consider if you want to talk about your pregnancy at work. If you do not want to discuss your pregnancy at work, make sure you convey that to your boss once you’ve announced.

What is your relationship like with your employer?

You coworkers? If you are close with your boss and would normally share this kind of news with them, you may feel free to announce earlier. If you have a strictly professional relationship and don’t feel comfortable telling them yet, it’s ok to wait. If you don’t want anyone to know at work yet, it’s OK to keep it a secret for a time. But by around 20-24 weeks, or when it’s obvious you are pregnant, it would be best to at least announce to your boss.

What does science say?

According to Kristen Jones, assistant professor of management at the University of Memphis, “Research suggests that disclosing pregnancy earlier may actually benefit how people view a woman in the workplace [1]“How to Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant,” Julia Carpenter, CNN Business, October 24, 2018,” Telling earlier also gives your boss more time to come up with a plan to account for your leave. An extra benefit to telling early is that you don’t have to stress about keeping your pregnancy a secret.

Are you close to a promotion or review?

Some professionals recommend waiting to announce until you’ve landed that big deal or delivered that huge project that is going to give you a raise. Only wait if you feel comfortable with waiting and the overall timing makes sense.

Are you applying for a job?

Legally, you are not required to tell a potential employer that you are pregnant. And they are not allowed to discriminate against you in the interview process. However, if you announce your pregnancy during the interview and don’t get the job, it’s a lot harder to prove that you were discriminated against.

How to tell your boss you’re pregnant

Tell them in person.

By telling your boss in person rather than over email, you can gauge their response. Were they enthusiastic about your news? Or were they stressed? Knowing how they respond can help inform what kinds of conversations need to happen in the coming weeks.

Set a positive tone.

Most professionals recommend setting a confident tone when you announce, in both your pregnancy and ability to work. However, you may not feel confident about this pregnancy. You certainly do not have to tell your employer how you feel about your pregnancy, but you can remind him or her that you are committed to your job and will continue working with excellence.

Do not tell them in passing – be intentional.

This is not one of those quick, “oh by the way” conversations in the hall. Instead, ask for a few minutes of your boss’s time so they can give you their full attention and be ready to hear your news.

Be short and sweet – at least at first.

Announcing does not mean going over every detail of the next several months. Instead, schedule a sit-down with her for a later date. Bring to that appointment your ideas for coverage while you are gone, any accommodations you know you need, and ideas for how you can make your job work during your pregnancy and after birth. Remember, you do not have to tell them if you plan to quit or continue to work until your maternity leave is up.

Talk to Human Resources (HR) first.

Before your sit-down with your boss, have a private conversation with your human resources department to discuss your rights. Doing this before announcing to your boss will help you identify if something is wrong in the way they respond, and help you ask for what you need.

Tell your boss before coworkers.

Coworkers, no matter how close they are to you, may accidentally spill the news to your boss, which can make things awkward. It is against the law for your boss to ask you if you are pregnant. Don’t put them in that position. Give them the courtesy of telling them first before you announce to coworkers or on social media.

Know your rights

Your right to work as a pregnant woman without discrimination is protected by law. But exact laws depend on how big your employer is and what state you are in. Also, some aspects of your rights are left up to your employer’s discretion.

Here are some guides to help you know exactly what rights you have when it comes to work and pregnancy:

Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave [2]“Family and Medical Leave (FMLA),” U.S. Department of Labor,” Here’s where to find out everything you need to know about the FMLA.

Your federal legal rights.

Here is a FAQ about your federal legal rights, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

State-specific laws.

In addition to federal law, you may have additional protections under your state law. Find out your state’s pregnancy- and labor-related laws here.

Your rights if you suffer a loss.

Here is a list of your workplace rights if you experience a loss before 20 weeks.

Where to go if your rights are violated.

If you feel you have suffered workplace discrimination due to your pregnancy, check your rights with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) here. And you can file a charge of discrimination here.

More information on your rights and talking to your employer.

For more information on knowing your workplace rights, and how to talk to your provider, go here.

Telling your boss you’re pregnant can seem complicated

There is a lot to consider when you tell your boss you’re pregnant. You want to be a reliable and valuable employee, even while you adjust to the physical, emotional, and mental demands this new pregnancy places on you.

In achieving this, remember that you have rights that can be protected. So ask for what you need.

As for when to announce, you know best. If you are unsure how your news might be taken at work, you can break the “coworker rule” and ask someone who has already announced a pregnancy there before how their news was handled.

You get to choose who knows what, when. If you’re not comfortable with your entire workplace knowing your news, tell your boss that the news of your pregnancy is to be kept private. They are obligated to respect your privacy.

We hope that when you tell your boss, your news is received with joy and a lot of support. Working while pregnant is not always simple and easy, but it absolutely can be worthwhile. We wish you the best in your work and with your baby on the way.

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