Working as a Nurse During Pregnancy

Being pregnant is a wonderful time in your life.

It is a time when you are in awe of what your body is capable of doing, in disbelief that you are having a baby as well as experiencing the feelings of excitement and nervousness that comes with being pregnant.

These feelings of pregnancy are discussed often, as well as how your body physically changes in order to grow the beautiful little baby currently residing in your tummy, but what isn’t discussed so much is the difficulty in managing some of those not-so-fun effects of pregnancy.

This is even more difficult if you have made the decision not to tell people the happy news until you have reached the end of those first 12 weeks, which is ironically when effects are at their worst.

With the type of elation that generally occurs when you find out you are having a baby, it is a hard task to keep this information between yourself and your partner.

What makes it harder, is when your body begins to change and all you want to do is share these changes with those close to you, including your work friends.

With the second trimester of pregnancy comes a sense of relief that you can now tell people and you generally not only start to feel a decrease in some of these uncomfortable effects of pregnancy, you begin to feel a bit more like your old self again.

Working as a Nurse During Pregnancy - Are You a Pregnant Nurse? pregnant nurse on ipad

Morning Sickness

I am currently 21 weeks pregnant with my first child, and I can thankfully say that I was one of the lucky ones who feels like a ‘pregnancy fraud’ because happily, the effects of morning sickness seemed to have missed me.

But, there are many who aren’t so lucky.

So how can you cope with morning sickness and being a nurse?

We’ve all worked with other nurses who have been pregnant and seen them dart away when the food trolley comes into the ward… or run out of a room with a hand over their mouth.

A few strategies that can help include:

  • Planning breaks around times that morning sickness is most likely to occur
  • Planning shifts around when morning sickness may strike you the hardest
  • Breathing exercises
  • Regularly eating and drinking (if you are able to)
  • And, as a last resort, medications.

Even though I haven’t experienced morning sickness, I still felt changes in my body that forced me to change the way I worked as a nurse.

And one of these changes was hunger.

When I was hungry… I was hungry!! And if I didn’t eat, then I would get nauseous.

This made it difficult for me as I am one of those nurses who hold off on morning tea until nearly lunch time, and suddenly I was finding myself looking for food by the time I had finished handover!

I eventually found a way to deal with it, and that was by making sure I had snacks in my pocket for those times of extreme hunger when I simply couldn’t leave the ward.

Some nurses aren’t so lucky and experience morning sickness so severe that they physically cannot work, and even if they want to keep their pregnancy a secret, are forced to tell people early because of it.

If this is the case, it might be worthwhile informing your manager or supervisor first, before telling the other people in your team.

Fatigue

When you consider that you are slowly growing another human being in your uterus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you are tired, even if you think you shouldn’t be!

It’s important to listen to your body.

When it tells you to rest, then you rest. And even when it doesn’t tell you to rest, still have a rest!

I found this out the hard way. I would begin feeling great and take on a lot to do, then pay for it severely the following day with a deep-seated fatigue.

I ended up changing self-talk with myself and adopting a very similar tone to how I would talk to one of my patients following a surgery, about getting rest and pacing and looking after myself.

Sometimes we just have to be a bit nicer to ourselves.

For nurses doing shift work, fatigue can be particularly difficult. Therefore, it is important to look after yourself and rest when you need it, including those reviving little naps following a strenuous morning shift (or a not-so-strenuous morning shift).

And, if you can, plan ahead with your shifts and try to minimise the number of late-early shifts and night shifts you undertake.

Caring for At-Risk Patients While Pregnant?

Caring for at risk patients such as cytotoxic patients or those under infectious precautions can be a contentious issue.

Some people say that pregnant women are safe caring for these patients because we should all be using the correct precautions to protect ourselves, however some also say that pregnant nurses shouldn’t put themselves or their baby at any increased risk, which – lets face it – these patients are.

Some nurses are happy to continue caring for these patients, others not so much.

At the end of the day, it is the individual’s decision.

Just speaking for myself, every ward that I have worked on has shown great regard for pregnant nurses, ensuring they are never put in positions in which they are torn between regard for the safety of themselves and their baby, and their responsibility to the ward and its patients.

In regards to safe working practices when pregnant, your hospital Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) will have further information on your rights, as well as Safe Work Australia.

Growing Bigger

As you grow bigger, you will find it difficult to do some of the activities you might have done previously.

If you need help, then ask for help.

You will find that a lot of the time you may not even have to ask – that people are so caring they will already be looking out for you.

It is also important to remember that during pregnancy you are more at risk of musculoskeletal injuries as your ligaments begin to stretch and loosen in order to prepare your body for childbirth.

So for nurses, this can be particularly important when you consider the manual handling tasks we are required to perform everyday, and the fact the nurses have one of the highest rates of workplace musculoskeletal injuries compared to other industries.

Top Hints for Being a Pregnant Nurse

Everyone is different and every pregnancy is different, so individuals will find specific strategies that will work for them and the effects of pregnancy they may be experiencing.

What may work for you, may not be for someone else. Like our patient care, it’s all individualised.

My top 5 hints for pregnant nurses are to:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Manage your nausea and those not-so-nice side effects
  3. Take care of yourself and listen to your body
  4. Speak up and ask for help if you need it
  5. Remember to take time out to relax and enjoy your pregnancy