Workplace hazards for pregnant workers and new mothers

Learn what common risks may affect you as a new or expectant mother in the physiotherapy workplace, and what to ask about in a risk assessment

Employers should assess risks pregnant workers and new mothers in the workplace

What type of hazards affect pregnant or breastfeeding physiotherapists?

The Health and Safety Executive provides general advice on the type of risks that might arise from working conditions for pregnant workers and new mothers. But it is important to think specifically about the work you do when discussing your risk assessment with your employer. 

Use this checklist to understand the common risks and the kinds of questions you should ask in your risk assessment:

Manual handling

Potential hazards to check for:

  • twisting, stooping or stretching to lift objects
  • awkward postures and undertaking strain-inducing movements
  • lifting objects that are difficult to grasp or are awkward to hold
  • frequent lifting
  • work in a rehabilitation setting with necessary physical handling
  • work with small babies, children, heavy patients or potentially uncooperative/unpredictable patients with mental health issues or learning disabilities
  • use of ultrasound equipment over extended hours

For more information, see our page about work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).


Potential hazards to check for:

  • ergonomic issues – for example, awkward spaces or around computer use
  • continuous standing or constant sitting
  • inadequate lighting 

For more information, see our page about inadequate work spaces.


Potential sources of stress to check for:

  • tasks you find particularly stressful, such as dealing with difficult patients
  • lack of support/understanding at work about your pregnancy
  • being bullied or victimised
  • concerns about your pregnancy being ignored

For more information, see our section about stress at work.

Working in the community and lone working

Potential hazards to consider:

  • too much lifting when working alone in the community
  • climbing long flights of stairs 
  • inadequate prior information about patients and their home environment
  • exposure to cigarette smoke
  • excessive driving to visit patients

Precautions to consider:

  • being trained in dynamic risk assessment techniques when out in the community 
  • ensuring you have a mobile phone or suitable electronic device to seek urgent assistance if needed
  • access to toilets
  • adaptable vehicle seating for your comfort and safety

For more information, see our page on lone working.


Issues to consider:

  • getting a choice of size and fit to ensure unrestricted range of movement
  • material that is comfortable to wear

Aquatic therapy

The pool environment may increase stress and fatigue due to temperature and humidity levels. Ask whether it would be possible to be redeployed if you were to experience discomfort.

Seek support in our aquatic therapy iCSP network.


Ask your employer to ensure the following are available:

  • suitable facilities to lie down
  • facilities to breastfeed or express milk in privacy and/or store expressed milk in a secure, clean refrigerator
  • toilets that are easily accessible from your work area
  • the ability to take breaks when you need them

For more information, see our page on breastfeeding facilities.

Electrotherapy and radiation

Issues to consider:

  • Do you work on a medical ward or intensive care unit (ICU) where mobile X-rays are used? 
  • Are you able to switch to alternative treatments for patients rather than providing electrotherapy or can you be relocated to another work area? 
  • Are you exposed to any patients receiving radiation/chemo treatments?

Infection risks

Issues to consider:

  • Are universal precautions adopted in your workplace at all times? 
  • Have you been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis (TB), Rubella (german measles) and Varicella-zoster (chicken pox)? Has your immunity been checked for TB, measles and chicken pox or will it be checked?

Working time

Issues to consider:

  • Do you have flexibility or choice over your working hours? 
  • Does your work involve very early starts or late finishes?
  • Does your job involve night work (between the hours of 11pm to 7am)?
  • Do you need extra breaks?

For more, see our information about working hours for new and expectant mothers


Issues to consider:

  • Does your work involve exposure to temperatures that are uncomfortably cold (below 16⁰C) or hot (above 27⁰C)? 
  • Are you exposed to cold draughts even where the average temperature is acceptable? 
  • Are there arrangements for frequent breaks and access to hot/cold drinks?

For more information, see our page about temperature in the work environment.

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