Working as a nurse is incredibly rewarding. Yet it can be a challenging job too, especially if you are a pregnant nurse. The physical and emotional aspects of nursing work can become doubly taxing if you’re expecting a child.
You might find it harder than usual to meet the physical challenges that nurses face, such as working long or unconventional hours, staying on your feet all day with little to no downtime, and possible exposure to infectious diseases.
You can also become potentially vulnerable to mental exhaustion or “compassion fatigue” when you face emotional challenges involving patients and their families, particularly if you experience mood swings during your pregnancy,
Fortunately, it is possible to balance your nursing responsibilities, your needs as a pregnant nurse, and of course, your baby’s needs. Many nurses continue to work throughout their pregnancy, sometimes even right up until their due date. Depending on your physical condition and your doctor’s recommendations, it’s possible for you to do the same if you take good care of yourself.
Why Pregnant Nurses Should Take Care of Themselves
As a nurse or a health care professional, it’s second nature for you to take care of other people. After all, it’s your job to provide much-needed health care and comfort to patients and their families. You make a difference in the lives of others every single day.
However, as a pregnant nurse, you need to prioritize taking care of yourself and the baby in your growing tummy. You have to make major changes in your work life to minimize risk, reduce stress, and address potential issues for the sake of your baby’s health and your own health as an expecting mother.
Here are eight tips to help you maintain the safest possible pregnancy while continuing to do the nursing work you love.
Note: Each pregnancy is unique. What is safe for one expecting mother may pose risk for another. Please consult with your doctor before following the tips below.
1. Keep Your OB in the Loop
Consult your obstetrician regarding your actions and decisions related to your pregnancy. You may be the expert on your body and the daily details of your job, but your OB is the expert on pregnancy and childbirth.
Communicate your work plan with your OB before putting it into action. Make sure your doctor understands exactly what your nursing position entails. Follow the recommendations that your OB proposes so that you can continue to have a safe pregnancy.
Consider your work plan as an ongoing project, instead of a set plan. Your health needs may evolve as your pregnancy does or your job responsibilities may change over time. Either way, keep your OB updated regularly on your work situation.
If your doctor tells you to rest, then just rest. While you may not initially like the idea of taking a break from work, there’s a reason why your OB suggested it: it’s beneficial for your health and the baby’s.
If your OB gives you the “go signal” to continue working, read on to find out how you can make adjustments so you can manage your job as a pregnant nurse.
2. Be Transparent with Your Manager and Team Members
Your pregnancy will affect your day-to-day work to some degree. Perhaps you won’t be able to handle certain smells or situations without getting nauseous. Maybe you will need a few more extra bathroom breaks than usual.
Since your own work will affect your colleagues’ work too, you should consider telling your manager and teammates about your pregnancy sooner than later, as early as you feel comfortable sharing the news. Once you give your co-workers a heads up, they can start making the necessary changes at work to accommodate your current situation.
Even if you decide not to tell everyone right away, you should at least inform your head nurse, nurse manager, and/or your immediate supervisor about your pregnancy as soon as possible. You should also consider informing a close colleague or two so that someone is aware of your situation in case an emergency happens. You may consult as well with your health care organization’s infection control team regarding best practices for pregnant nurses.
3. Invest in the Right Attire
As your pregnancy progresses, you will probably gain weight and you will likely experience foot pain. Investing in the right attire and right footwear early on in your pregnancy can increase your comfort and help you make it through long work shifts.
Maternity scrubs, which are specially designed for pregnant nurses and health care professionals, expand to accommodate your baby bump and offer more stretch than traditional scrubs. Well-cushioned shoes with good arch support can also minimize foot and back pain, while compression socks can reduce swelling and cramping in your feet.
4. Stock Your Hospital Bag and Lunch Box
Pack essential items in your hospital bag, such as clothes, toiletries, and important documents, so you can be prepared for unexpected childbirth and other emergency situations that may arise while you are at work. Don’t forget to include personal medications and anti-nausea pills that your OB has cleared for your safe use during pregnancy.
Make sure to pack healthy meals and snacks in your lunch box to help you meet your nutritional needs — and to ward off those pregnancy cravings!
5. Consider Switching Your Shift
Switching your shift can make working during your pregnancy significantly easier. If you’re struggling to make it through four 12-hour shifts, check with your supervisor if you can temporarily switch to five eight-hour shifts instead. If this is not possible, you may consider reducing your overall work hours in the meantime.
Changing the type of shift you work can also make a huge difference. Some pregnant nurses prefer the day shift since it allows them to get proper rest in the evenings, but others are fine with working the night shift. The shift-type that is conducive to your well-being depends on your personal circumstances and your pregnancy.
Be sure to consult with your OB first before making any major schedule changes.
6. Rest on Your Days Off
Between the demands of nursing and the demands of pregnancy, your body and mind are going through a lot right now. Use your days off to truly rest, especially if you’re planning to work until the end of the third trimester.
It’s okay to leave the house a bit messy so you can have more time to recover physically. It’s alright to skip on socialization so you can sleep in longer. Indulge in lazy days on your precious days off.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Nursing is a physically demanding job. As a pregnant nurse, you may need a little more assistance than usual to carry out your daily tasks. Ask a co-worker to help you with patient transfers and other heavy lifting activities. Make sure not to lift anything beyond the maximum weight limit than your OB has set for you.
If you need to take a break, let someone know so you can get someone to take over your assignments temporarily. If your supervisor and team members know that you’re pregnant, it’s probable that they will be more than willing to lend a hand to keep you and the baby safe.
This advice also extends outside the hospital. At the end of a long shift, you may have less energy than usual to cook, clean, or buy groceries. Call on your significant other, family and friends, and neighbors to help you out with errands. A little help can go a long way, and your support system will most likely be happy to provide it.
8. Listen to Your Body
Listen to your body throughout your pregnancy, as recommended by Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. Nurses often forgo personal comfort to address patient needs, but you must make it a priority to take care of yourself and the baby when you are expecting.
Unless you’re facing an emergency or a life-or-death situation, go to the bathroom or take a rest when you need it. If you’re feeling particularly exhausted, take a day off. Pushing your body past its limits can adversely affect your pregnancy.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re creating a human life while saving the lives of others, and neither is easy to accomplish. Adjust your work plan as needed, even if it means going on leave earlier than expected. Whatever you do, give yourself grace: Be proud of yourself for everything you’re accomplishing.