Sporting a Bump Behind the Chair

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

About the author:

LeeAnn Miley is a salon owner based in Hastings, Nebraska, and the President and Executive Director of The Sovereign Stylist. Her personal experiences led her to advocate and educate stylists on proper worker classification. LeeAnn’s blogs are typically focused on tax compliance, worker classification, and general business practices. LeeAnn believes that laws and business are powerful entities when one has knowledge of them and has dedicated herself to spreading such knowledge to the industry she loves.

I found out I was pregnant with my second child literally the same day I started my first salon job, perfect timing. Let’s just say it was a day full of emotion. Not only was I going to be bringing another bouncing baby into our family, but my dream of working behind the chair finally came true. I was overwhelmed with excitement but quickly realized my dream of making people feel beautiful about themselves might once again be put on hold. You see, my first pregnancy was hard. I had been diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which is an extreme form of morning sickness that doesn’t go away after the first trimester and causes severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

The possibility of having another difficult pregnancy was not my only concern. I was worried about the long hours on my feet, exposure to chemicals, how was I going to break this news to my manager, what would clients say, and when the hell was I going to pee?! I had to remind myself that I was not the first-ever hairstylist to become pregnant and that is why I am writing this blog. I want to share with you the things I learned while sporting a bump behind the chair.

That night, I did a ridiculous amount of research. There are a number of scientific studies that have examined whether hairstylists are at increased risk of a poor pregnancy outcome. Overall, the studies suggest that hairdressers are no more likely to experience a poor pregnancy outcome than non-hairdressers,


Telling Your Employer

There is an old wive’s tale of not telling anyone you are pregnant until your first trimester is over; however, it is advised that your employer be aware of your pregnancy as early as possible because there are occupational health hazards that will need to be accounted for. I know this can be nerve-racking because what if they reduce your hours or let you go. Let me reassure you, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.

More than likely, your employer is going to appreciate the heads up. Here are some tips from, What to Expect, for sharing your exciting news:

  • Figure out if you need to adjust your responsibilities. It is advised that hairstylists work 35 or fewer hours a week and get off their feet as much as possible. Plan to make arrangements to adjust your work responsibilities until you're ready to deliver.

Some things that I did were swap some responsibilities with coworkers, make sure I blocked out time for breaks and committed to working fewer hours a week.

  • Plan for coverage while you're out. Think about how your job will get done while you're out on leave. Since your boss's first reaction may be to panic about the workload rather than congratulate you on your baby-to-be, it's wise to arm yourself with a list of ideas and solutions for how your job can be managed in your absence.

During my last trimester, I arranged for my clients to meet with the stylists I had picked for their next services so we could talk over their expectations and get to know each other. I also made service cards for each of my regular clients so that my co-workers could refer back to my notes before the service. Another thing I did was ensure my fellow stylists and management that they were more than welcome to call or text me with any questions.

  • Set aside the time. Schedule an appointment to meet with your boss to tell them your big news, so no one will be rushed or distracted — and be ready to postpone the day if necessary.

  • Accentuate the positive. Never start with apologies - you have nothing to be sorry for. Instead, let your boss know you're happy about the pregnancy, confident in your ability, and committed to your plan to mix work and family.

  • Be flexible (but not spineless). Have a plan in place, but be open to discussion and compromise. But don't back down completely: Come up with a realistic bottom line and stick to it.

In my situation, the manager asked if I would mind picking up some of her administrative duties since they were less strenuous and she was going to be picking up more of my clients behind the chair, which I had no problem doing.

  • Set it in writing. Once you've worked out the details of your pregnancy protocol and maternity leave, confirm it in writing so there won't be confusion later.

This was important to me because I wanted to be sure that, over the next nine months, I wasn’t going to overwork myself and cause strain on the baby and myself.


How to Physically Manage

One of my biggest concerns about being pregnant and working in the salon was the exposure to chemicals and fumes. Of course, I had friends and family members in my ear telling me that being around the various chemicals in the salon on a daily basis could affect my pregnancy and the baby. Obviously, I didn’t want to jeopardize my pregnancy or this little peanut growing inside of me. So, I did my research….a LOT of research.

Back in the 80s, a lot of hair dyes contained chemicals that could be harmful to unborn babies in high doses, but over time many of these chemicals have been eliminated from oxidative dye products. Essentially, studies show that exposure to the chemicals from hair dyes or hair products results in very limited systemic absorption unless there are burns or abscesses on the scalp. Therefore, these chemicals are unlikely to reach the placenta in substantial amounts to cause harm to the fetus, but my OBGYN still recommended wearing gloves, whenever possible, to limit exposure.

What about breathing in the chemicals? In a study conducted by Public Health Physicians of Canada, 26 salons were sampled in Montreal, Canada, between June 1996 and December 1997. All chemicals measured were well below the threshold limits recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

So, while my little peanut and I were going to be okay when it came to being around the chemicals, my stomach was not. The odor of perm solution and some of the styling products used on clients would rev up my already hyperactive nausea. I learned a couple of tricks. First, try popping a powerful mint because mint is known to counter nausea. The other thing I started doing was rubbing a drop of essential oil under my nose and if that isn’t strong enough, Vick’s will work too.

Here are more tips, from stylists who have been there, to physically get through your pregnancy on the clinic floor:

  • Get off your feet. Standing all day can affect circulation and can cause water retention which leads to swelling in your feet. Take every opportunity you can to sit with your feet up.

While my clients were processing, between clients, and even while folding towels, I would sit with my feet up.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water helps your body absorb essential nutrients and transports vitamins, minerals, and hormones to blood cells. It's those nutrient-rich blood cells that ultimately reach your baby. Drinking water also helps to preserve an ideal level of amniotic fluid and even helps fetal kidney function.

An issue I experienced was heartburn & indigestion from, of all things, water. My doctor advised me to drink alkaline water and it really helped. While you may want to reach for soda or coffee, for a dose of caffeine to pep you up, these drinks are dehydrating and will defeat the purpose of drinking anything to begin with.

  • Snack! Not only do you have a little human growing inside of you, robbing your body of nutrition, but an empty stomach can also make nausea worse. Keep a variety of high protein snacks on hand like nuts, string cheese, dried fruit & power bars.

  • Keep cool. Pregnant women have an increased amount of blood in their body, so it causes them to feel warmer than most people. For a woman's body to handle the extra blood, the blood vessels dilate slightly, bringing blood closer to the surface of the skin and causing the woman to feel warmer.

Trust me, you will start sweating from places you never knew you could sweat from. See if it is okay to keep a small fan at your station or at least in the back room. Style your hair so that it is off your neck and forehead. Wear cool & comfortable clothes that are cotton blends to allow your body to breathe. My favorite go-to outfit was usually a tunic dress with a cute cardigan or a long flowing skirt and a trendy cotton top.

  • Bathroom breaks. If there is anything you take away from this blog, it is PEE WHEN YOU HAVE TO PEE! First of all, clients are going to understand if you need to step away between foils to relieve your bladder. Second, urinary tract infections are more prominent when you are pregnant and they are not fun.

  • Comfort over cuteness. When it comes to shoes and clothing remember “comfort over cuteness.” Yes - you can still look professional and your new glow will have you looking like a beauty, but you aren’t always going to feel that way. It is important to wear shoes that are going to promote circulation, have a good arch, and be comfortable for the long hours on your feet.

During my third and fourth pregnan