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Protection During Pregnancy

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Using Family Medical Leave

What if your doctor says no lifting and your boss won't budge? "You'll have to use family medical leave early," Cameron says. "The trouble is you'll lose time you could use after your child is born."

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in the United States in 1993, guarantees 12 weeks of job-protected family leave, but a recent Congressional study found that, because the leave is unpaid, some women who are eligible don't take it. Recently President Clinton announced a proposal to create a paid family leave program by using unemployment insurance funds. It needs Congressional approval to become law. Mozurkewich hopes that her study will alert public officials to the dangers of demanding physical work -- in particular during the final trimester of pregnancy -- and edge Congress a little closer to establishing a more enlightened family leave policy.

None of this will happen soon enough to help Joan Bartlet get through her pregnancy, however. She's had to help herself. When she couldn't get nursing administrators to budge on light duty, she found another way out. "A job opened up in the activities department," she says. "I'll still be working with patients, but I won't have to do the heavy lifting I do as an aide." This solution has some disadvantages. "I had to take a cut in pay," Bartlet says. "I'm making $6 an hour now. As an aide, I made $8." But it's the only alternative she sees to protect her health and her baby's.

Jean Callahan is a freelance writer based in Salem, Mass., who specializes in health and medical issue. Her work has appeared in many national magazines including Health, Self, and Parenting.

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