9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

How am I supposed to survive pregnancy while working 12 hour shifts as a nurse?

This is a question I asked myself many times during the early parts of both of my pregnancies.   In fact, at times it really stressed me out!

Was I going to be able to be on my feet all day?  What is the best way to prevent dehydration at work?

And most importantly, how am I going to keep my energy up for my entire shift?!

But by taking proper precautions and always putting safety first, working as a nurse while pregnant is possible.

Please keep in mind that these tips are not a replacement for medical care.  You should always speak with your doctor first about their recommendations.  And if you both decide that working 12 hour shifts during your pregnancy is OK, then here are some tips to help get you through!

a pregnant nurse at work

You can thrive during your pregnancy while working as a nurse when you plan ahead and take good care of yourself!

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

Here are 9 helpful tips for pregnant nurses:

1.  Invest in compression stockings or socks

How compression socks help prevent varicose veins

Compression socks and stockings help nurses by preventing varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time.

During pregnancy, a mother’s blood volume increases by almost 50%!  That’s a lot of extra fluid to be circulating through your body when you are on your feet for 12 hour shifts.  This is also why many pregnant women develop varicose veins during pregnancy.  If you are a pregnant nurse and haven’t invested in compression socks yet, its time to get a couple of pairs ASAP.

Compression stockings are often overlooked as a proactive way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours.  Pregnant women especially benefit from wearing compression stockings or socks during a 12 hour shift for a few reasons:
  • Prevention of varicose veins
  • Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots
  • Decreased swelling of ankles and feet

I was able to continue working as an emergency room nurse up until the beginning of my ninth month of pregnancy because I invested in a few quality pairs of toe to waist compression stockings.  I wouldn’t have made it past my 6th month without them!

2.  Wear good shoes

NIKE shoes for nurses

Pregnant nurses must make sure they have great shoes to support their growing belly’s.

Every nurse needs a great pair of shoes to get through a 12 hour shift.  But the benefits to wearing quality nursing shoes during pregnancy it is even more important.  You will be carrying an extra 25-35 pounds and your feet need support to carry that extra weight.  If you thought your feet hurt working as a nurse before pregnancy, wait until you are pregnant! Keep in mind that your feet will swell a little more during pregnancy.

Things to look for in a great pair of nursing shoes.

  • Comfort
  • Support and stability
  • Slip resistance
  • Work function
  • Price and warranty

You can read more about the best shoes for nurses here!


3.  Pack healthy and energizing snacks

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

During my first trimester I struggled quite a bit with nausea and an overwhelming feeling of hungover-ness (without any of the fun the night before).  I was also training to be an ER nurse, so it was more important than ever to be alert and focused.

By packing a lunch with nutritious snacks everyday I was able to keep myself energized as well as fend off nausea enough to get through each shift.  I just couldn’t go more than 2-3 hours without refueling myself with something healthy to eat.

Admittedly, when I forgot to bring food with me I would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the stash we gave our patients.  Although they were nothing special, for some reason they tasted amazing.  Never underestimate the hunger of a pregnant nurse!  I felt so much better and able to continue working afterwards.

Here are a few easy, fast, and high energy snacks to help your pregnant body stay energized through your 12 hour shifts:

  • Trail mix
  • Energy bars
  • Almond butter and apples
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Veggies and hummus


4.  Go to bed as early as you can.

To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Pregnant nurses need their sleep!

You simply cannot sleep too much when you are pregnant.  This is a fact.

Here is a sleep secret that got my through 12 hour shifts during my pregnancy.  I would go down to the hospital meditation room during my lunch break, find a comfortable chair and literally pass out for 45 minutes.  I set my phone alarm to make sure I was back to work on time.  When it when it went off I was so deep in REM sleep that sometimes I didn’t even know where I was when I woke up.

The only way you are going to have the energy to make it through your pregnancy while working 12 hour shifts is to make sure you get as much sleep as you possibly can every night.  8 hours would be ideal.

5.  Aim for 30 minutes of exercise everyday

women practicing yoga

Prenatal yoga can help nurses deal with stress during pregnancy.

It seams counter intuitive, but exercising while pregnant will actually give you more energy to get through a 12 hour shift. In addition, exercise during pregnancy prevents gestational diabetes and hypertension.

(It is important to talk to your doctor about starting any exercise routine during pregnancy.  There are rare circumstances when your doctor may not want you to exercise while pregnant.)

Non-impact exercises for pregnant nurses include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Hand weights
  • Low impact aerobics


6.  Reconsider working the night shift

Nurse playing with daughter and examining eyes

Working the night shift can be especially challenging during pregnancy. Consider switching to day shift.

The rigorousness of working 12 hour shifts as a nurse is exhausting as it is.  Add pregnancy into the mix and you might find that you are even more tired than ever.

Some pregnant nurses who have already been working night shift continue with that schedule and do just  fine.  However, those who have rotating day and night schedules might find it especially hard to switch back to the night shift once they become pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to continue working night shifts.  Communicate with your manager about your specific health needs during your pregnancy. You may want to switch to a day shift only schedule for the duration of your pregnancy.

7.  Talk to your manager about modified duty

Pregnant Nurse at work

Many facilities are able to offer modified duty for nurses who can’t be on their feet all day.

As a pregnant nurse it may be necessary to have a modified work assignment.  Especially for nurses who work in rigorous units such as the emergency department.  The physical demands of pregnancy might be too much for pregnant nurses already struggling with fatigue, nausea or having to carry so much extra weight.

Talk to your manager to see if there are alternative assignments you can have such as working at the monitor, organizing paperwork or auditing patient charts.  If these options are not available consider the possibility of working shorter shifts or working two days a week instead of three.

Remember, always ask for help if you need it!

8.  Communicate with management about your intended time to go on maternity leave

It is important to keep open communication with administration about when you intend to go on maternity leave.  As a pregnant nurse, you cannot predict the future.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of working up until my 38th week.  But when I had my appointment at 31 weeks my doctor thought it was best that I didn’t work on my feet for more 6 hours a day.  While 6 hours seems like a lot in most professions,  it’s not much for a hospital nurse.    Sometimes we are on our feet for 10-12 hours a shift!

Yet, I still didn’t want to go off work because for some reason I felt like I was taking advantage of the system.  I thought I had the grit to work all the way through.  So, I waited for two weeks before I finally presented my doctors note to my manager.  When I finally did, I gave it to him with tears in my eyes because I knew he would have to put me on disability at that time.  My maternity leave started at that moment.

It was a good thing in the long run because I suffered a placental abruption and had an emergency c-section 7 weeks before my due date.  It is wise to listen to your doctor’s advice!

9.  Enjoy your pregnancy

pregnant women's belly

Enjoy your pregnancy, nurse!

Pregnancy can and should be a beautiful experience, even when you are a nurse working 12 hour shifts.  Far too often many pregnant nurses focus on the inconveniences and difficulties they face at work during their pregnancies  But with proper precautions it can – and should – be a time filled with good health, gratitude, abundance and most of all, joy.

Recommended reading for the nurse mom:

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7 Essential Items Your Nanny Needs From You

7 Essential Items Your Nanny Needs From You

(This post contains affiliate links.   For more information please see our disclosure policy.)

Going back to work after maternity leave comes to an end can be a daunting, emotional experience.  Just when you have gotten used to spending day after day bonding with your baby and developing a routine – just like that – you have to go back to work.  Much of the time, many moms aren’t even getting close to a decent nights sleep, and what they do get is usually fragmented and interrupted at best.

It is hard to trust another person to come into your home and take care of your precious baby.  After all, you know how to care for your child best, where the diapers are,  when they need to eat, what to feed them, where and what time they sleep, and what their favorite snuggle blanket is.  Going back to work is hard, but leaving your baby in the hands of other is so much harder.

The only thing you can do it prepare the best that you can (and remember, its probably way harder for you then it is for them!).

diaper bag with essential items for the nanny

7 Essential Items You Nanny Needs From You

Here is a list of essential items your nanny needs from you so you go back to work without worry:

Nasal Aspirator

Moms know that nasal aspirators are great tool to unplug baby’s tiny nasal passages.  And nanny’s need to have one available so they too can unplug stuffy noses when mom isn’t there.    Because infants nasal passages are so small, having a stuffy nose affects their ability to breathe, eat, and sleep which makes the nasal aspirator an especially important need for the nanny.

First Aid Kit

Having a First Aid Kit available for the nanny is a no-brainier.  Because you just never know if or when an accident might occur.  In addition, let your child’s caregiver know that it is 100% OK for them to call 911 if there is any concern for your child’s safety.    It is always better to be safe then sorry.

Baby Thermometer

Despite what many caregivers think, you cannot measure a baby’s temperature by feeling their forehead or skin.  You need a digital thermometer to accurately measure a bay’s temperature to know whether or not they have a fever.   An easy thermometer like this one make it simple for the nanny or caregiver to assess babies temperature correctly.

Diaper Bag

Initially I didn’t realize that our nanny depended on having a diaper bag as much as I did!  But it makes perfect sense as they need all of the items inside to take care of our child when we were not there:  diapers, diaper cream, wipes, extra clothes, sunscreen, set of extra keys, baby toys, ect…

Our nanny used our diaper bag when we were not there and took it where ever she went with the baby – for a walk or to the park.  This is the exact diaper bag that we have been using for years and it is still is perfect condition, even considering how much wear-and-tear we put on it.

List Of Important Numbers

This is peace of mind at your caregivers fingertips.  Make sure your child’s caregiver has important numbers they might need in an emergency so they can notify your doctor, pediatrician or veterinarian in seconds. 

This card includes areas to write your police, fire, doctor, pediatrician, pharmacy, utility companies, your address & phone numbers, emergency contact names and phone numbers and an area to write other important information.

Bottle Schedule/Sleep Schedule/Poop Schedule

Who knew that establishing a good eat, sleep and poop schedule could be so important?  Since your child’s caregiver probably doesn’t spend as much time with your baby as you do, they need a guideline for what your baby does on a normal basis.

Also, it is a written documentation for you as well so you know what happened with your baby when you get back home.  We used this exact baby journal for the first 10 months of both of our children lives and it was so helpful!

Hidden Key Access

If you have a hidden key outside of your house then it would be wise to show your nanny where it is!  We didn’t show out nanny exactly where we hid our spare outside – and on the one single occasion that she locked the keys inside-  she was unable to find (resulting in my husband having to leave work and let her in).  One thing I have learned is that it is important to have at least one backup plan in place.  And that includes having a spare key that our nanny has access to.

Are there anything other essential items that you would add to this list?  Please leave a comment below!

Additional Recommended Reading:

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Important Emergency Information To Leave With Your Nanny Or Sitter

Important Emergency Information To Leave With Your Nanny Or Sitter

I remember leaving our  10-week-old daughter with a nanny for the first time.  My husband and I were finally going for our first adult evening since becoming parents.   To say I was anxious would be a massive understatement.  I think I texted our nanny at least 3 times before we even got to dinner!
When we arrived home our little Zoe was snuggled up and sleeping soundly.  In fact, I don’t think she even knew we were gone.
A few months later I went back to work as an Emergency Room Nurse, two days a week.  I know that may not seem like much, but my shifts at the hospital are about 13 hours a day.  And that is a long time for a mom to be away from her baby!
So, in the spirit of being overly prepared I made this comprehensive list of important information to leave with the nanny or sitter. It’s displayed right on our refrigerator so you can’t miss it. I want to make sure our nanny has easy access to any important information that she could possibly need in case of an emergency.
Thankfully she has never needed it.  But you never really know when a disaster or other emergency can strike so it is always best to prepare in advance.
nanny with children

Important emergency information to leave with your nanny or sitter:

General information:

  • Names of all family members (include pets in the house)
  • Names of neighbors, and their children
  • Your address
  • A list of your child’s allergies

Specific contact information:

  • Your cell phone number
  • Information about where you will be while you are out
  • The name and phone number of someone else to contact in case of emergency (if you can’t be reached)
  • Local phone numbers for police, fire, poison control, and emergency services
    • Note – make sure your caregiver knows that it is OK for them to call 911 if they are concerned in any way for your child’s safety.  Always better safe than sorry!

Medical information:

  • A photocopy of your child’s health insurance card
  • The name, address, and phone numbers for your child’s pediatrician
  • The name, address, and phone number of a nearby hospital
  • Information about any medication your child takes (including dosage)

Other Information:

  • A list of the house rules (what kids can or can’t eat, bed times, anything that is not allowed, etc.)
  • Homework information, if necessary, in order to help school-age children
  • Show them where to find the first aid kid, flashlights, fire extinguisher and any other emergency preparedness items

Do you have your child’s important information ready for your nanny or sitter? Now would be a great time to gather this information and put in in a handy spot in case of an emergency.

Additional Recommended Reading:

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Maternity Leave For Nurses:  How To Financially Prepare

Maternity Leave For Nurses: How To Financially Prepare

(This post about saving money for maternity leave as a nurse may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

As a new mother, it is your legal right to take a maternity leave.

Maternity leave is so important for a new mother for many reasons:

Unfortunately, many women in the US only get 6 weeks of maternity leave (8 weeks if you have a c-section).  And if you are a per diem employee like me, none of that time off is paid.  For that reason I worked right up until my 9th month of pregnancy while working as an emergency room nurse at a level 1 trauma center (thank God for pregnancy compression stockings!).

Nurses work extremely hard to care for patients like they would care for a family member, yet when they have a baby of their own they often have very little time to bond with their flesh and blood.  Add the financial strain into the mix and it can become very stressful and overwhelming.  So what is a nurse who is also a brand new mom to do?

Well, I have half-glass full mentality.  So for the sake of finding solutions to this conundrum that so many women find themselves in, I compiled a list of ways for mothers to plan financially far in advance of baby’s arrival.  You must take care of yourself first!

Pregnant nurse at work

The average paid maternity leave in the USA is only 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section.  And if you are a per diem RN then chances are that you will not be paid at all while you are on maternity leave.

Saving for maternity leave is crucial for moms so they can spend more time baby bonding and less time worrying about money!

Unpaid maternity leave for nurses: you need to save up in advance!

After my daughter was born in 2015 I went back to work as a per diem nurse (higher hourly rate and more flexibility, but no benefits – including disability or paid maternity leave).   Therefore, eighteen months later when I went on maternity leave with my second baby I had a completely unpaid maternity leave.  It made the whole situation much more stressful for me.  Thankfully I planned well in advance to minimize the financial burden.

Here is how I managed to save up an additional 20K for my second maternity leave:

#1.  Open a new savings account dedicated to maternity leave.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to pay yourself first. When you set up direct deposit for each paycheck you make saving much easier. That way you don’t even see the money hitting your checking account. Liquid money is good so you can use it when you need it.

Suzie Orman (one of my all-time favorite financial gurus) says that you want to have as much money saved up for as many months as you plan to take off, as well as an 8 month emergency plan. You never know when an emergency can strike, for example, a medical emergency, a job loss or worse. The faster you can start saving into an account dedicated to maternity leave, the more prepared you will be when it comes.

#2.  Make a budget and stick to it.

I prefer more of a no budget, budget strategy. Basically, I decide how much I want to save each paycheck and immediately transfer it into an online savings account as soon as payday comes.

I am aware of everything I purchase and review it each month by using a program called Mint to track my expenses. If you aren’t using this, you should be. Since I have started using Mint I have watched my savings rate take off farther than ever. It is amazing how much you can save when you know exactly where your money is going!

I’m always surprised how many people I talk to who have no idea what they really spend in a month. Needless to say, this is a poor strategy for preparing for an unpaid maternity leave. You’ve got to have a plan.

#3.  Make more money now or take on extra work.

If you are currently pregnant or even just thinking about it, now is a good time to take on extra hours at work. Especially if you are able to get overtime pay.

As a nurse, anything over 40 hours of work a week is considered overtime at my hospital.  I don’t work overtime anymore now that I have small children, but I did it during my pregnancies just to add a little more to my savings.

In addition, some holidays pay time-and-a-half rates. Therefore, I have been known to pick up shifts on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving or even Christmas. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but my family handles it by celebrating these holidays on the day before or the day after the actual holiday. When children are young, they don’t know what day it is anyway, so this strategy has worked particularly well. It adds up quite a bit when you are saving to be out for a few months.

Maternity leave savings plan for nurses

#4.  Cut all recurring expenses that you aren’t really using or don’t need.

Look at your monthly expenses and see if there is anywhere that you can reasonably make a cut. Are you really using the 100$ a month gym membership? Or does it make more sense to take daily walks and do online yoga classes at home?

My husband and I talk about money often and try to be responsible about our spending. Saving money is all about establishing priorities and having set goals. This has kept us in good financial health and kept us on the same page with our spending habits.

#5.  Look at the easy ways to cut back.

Families dropping from a dual income to a single income usually need to trim expenses somewhere. Make a list of everything you are spending money on, and be honest with yourself about what is an actual need. Here are a few ideas to throw on the table:

  • Nix the coffee cart habit = save $4 a day
  • Pack your lunches = save $12 a day
  • Cancel the cable you are barely using anyway = save $80 a month
  • Cook your meals at home instead of ordering take out = potentially $100’s in savings per month (if you eat out a lot)
  • Go on a 3-6 month spending freeze on things that are not an actual “need” =  $$$

Do you see my point here? There is A LOT of money to be saved if you just pay more attention to what you are spending money on.

I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on “trimming the fat” on my own spending habits since paying off a large amount of student loan debt in a short amount of time.  Saving money for maternity leave as a nurse was a very similar experience.

#6.  Don’t fall for the baby registry trap.

There are so many items that I was told I had to have for baby #1. Many of them are “nice to have items” that I barely even used (I’m looking at you grocery cart baby cover I only used 3 times!). Many of these supposed “must have items” from my baby registry are currently being stored away in my garage and will, at best, find a new home in our local Goodwill.

I remember looking through Pinterest at lists of “must haves” for the new mom. They are long and mostly unnecessary. Stay away from those lists!

For example, I was told that I “needed” the newborn insert for our stroller. But for the first few months I was using her car seat in her stroller. By the time I actually went to use the insert she has already grown out of it.   Same went for the ergo baby newborn insert- I didn’t even need it until she was too big to fit in it anyway.

If you actually need something, then go ahead and get it. These are just my thoughts as a second time mom with a lot of baby registry regret. With the exception of a double stroller and a crib, I can’t think of any other BIG items I will actually need for our new baby.

#7.  Consider the extra expenses that come with a new baby.

There will be some extra expenses after the baby is born. Some of the big ones for us are diapers, wipes, food, and additional childcare.  None of these things are cheap, so it’s good to be prepared for the expenses in advance.

You could always decide to go the cloth diaper route. I know people who have done this and it does save quite a bit of money. That, however, was not in our savings plan. There are some things of convenience that really are worth the money, and that was one for us.

Other big expenses include childcare enrichment classes (MyGym, recreation classes, music classes, etc.) if that is something you are interested in.

Childcare is our single biggest expense besides housing.  In fact, if I didn’t have the higher hourly rate that I get from being a per diem nurse, it might not even make financial sense for me to work as an RN.   We have a nanny that comes every Monday and Wednesday so those are the days that I work at the hospital (plus one day on the weekend when my husband is home to watch the kids).  If you have family that can help on days you work that would be a huge financial savings.

I have read that the average baby costs their parents $300,000 from the time they are born until the time they turn 18. And that doesn’t even include a college education! I don’t know about you, but that really makes me think about how we budget our money. (We have college funds set up for both of our kids which started the day they were born, but we are still going to encourage them to achieve scholarships!)

#8.  Think about the big picture.

Having a baby is one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had. I absolutely love being a Mom. However, it can also be stressful at times, even with the most thoughtful preparation.

At the end of the day you can only do the best you can. Saving for unpaid maternity leave is just one of the things I did to try and ease the financial loss that comes with having a baby.  It is wise to try and eliminate as much stress as you can so you can joyfully relish in the awesomeness that comes with having a new baby.

Now, if only I could invent a healthy way to live on increments of 2 hours of sleep or less, I would be golden!  Best wishes to you and your growing family.

Are there any other tips on saving money for maternity leave as a nurse you would add to this list?  Leave a comment!

P.S.  HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up to receive your FREE E-BOOK “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care”  in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:


Nurse Mom:  8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

Nurse Mom: 8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

(This post contains affiliate links that I have personally used and have found essential for pumping at work as a nurse working 12 hour shifts at the hospital.  You can find my disclosure policy here.)

Having a new baby is both incredible and overwhelming.  Breast feeding can be hard for new moms (it certainly was for me!).   Once I finally got the hang of it my maternity leave was almost over and I had a whole to problem to figure out:  how was I going to continue breastfeeding while working as a nurse?

Nurses who breastfeed may face challenges as they return to work.

There is good news for nurses who WANT to continue breastfeeding their babies for up to a year or longer as a working mom and nurse.  It is possible!  But you need to plan in advance and communicate with your workplace about your intention to pump at work.  And you need to have the right pumping supplies to make it possible.

If you don’t plan ahead, pumping at work can be extremely difficult.  But with the right pumping tools and a lot of determination you will find that you can make pumping fit right into your busy nursing schedule!

Even I can’t believe how long I have been able to pump while working as a nurse.

I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 13 months.  And I still can’t believe how well it is going!  Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!).   But overall the experience has been way better then I would have thought.

I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire.  I want other working moms to know that they can do this too.  (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).

Nurse in scrubs

Essential Must-Have Items To Pump At Work As A Nurse:

Portable Breast Pump

This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   I am using the Medela portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered and it works great.  You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.  You can also use this bag to store your breast milk while you are away at work as long as you keep in in a refrigerator.

Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one.  I live in California and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!

(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other.  So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it!  Otherwise you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one anther.  You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)

Breast Milk Bottles

You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work.  I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump but there are several other brands you can used as well.  Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (its a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).

I also like the Medela screw on lids better then some other brands because they are leak proof.  (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!).  You can wash them in the sink and they are also dishwasher safe.

Double Pump And Nursing Bra

For the sake of time and efficiency it is very important that you double pump at work.  I really like this double pumping bra because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with with both hands.  Once you start pumping you will find that having to hold the pumps in place is really annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.  It also helps prevent spilling accidents since you can remove and clean one side at a time.

Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it, but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.   I already wore them at home from the time my son was about 1 week old.

I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals which come in direct contact with your skin.  They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if your are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated.  Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them.  I have 12 reusable nursing pads and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer!  So even if you have a surplus of milk you can put it away for later use.   These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section so you know how long they have been in the freezer.

Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out.  Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use.  These are a necessity for working moms who pump – I have used over 200 of them already!

Milk Storage Organizer

My freezer got a little over loaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized.  It also helped me keep the milk organized by date so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.

Pumping At Work:  Cleaning Parts And Sanitation

One of the biggest concerns of many nurse moms who are pumping at work is cleanliness.  After all, the hospital is a place where sick people go and it is more full of germs then pretty much anywhere.  The last thing a new mom wants to do is accidentally bring home unwanted bugs to their new baby!  Thus, it is so important to try and keep your breast pump parts as clean as possible while you are pumping during 12 hour shifts.

First, it is very important to try to pump in an area if the hospital that is as clean as possible.  Many hospitals have a lactation room set aside for employees of the hospital.  Talk to your administration about places that you can safely pump that are as germ-free as possible.  Bathroom stalls are not a place for a new mom to pump! You have the right to pump at work as a nurse in a sanitary place!

For more information on successful pumping during 12 hour shifts in the hospital read How To Pump At Work As A Nurse.

Here are a few essentials for keeping pumping parts clean at work:

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump And Accessory Wipes (72 each)

Medela quick clean breast pump & accessory wipes are perfect for nurses at work with no access to soap or water for cleaning breast pumps and accessories.  Unfortunately, many nurses have no choice but to pump in empty hospital rooms with no running water and therefore have a difficult time cleaning pump parts.  These are still so helpful for me as a nurse who pumps at work.  One wipe cleans both breast shields, valves and membranes.

I also use these for cleaning changing tables, high chairs, cribs and countertops, toys. and other hard surfaces when I am at home.  And the Medela quick clean wipes are unscented, alcohol and bleach-free as well.

Wet/Dry Bag for Breast Pump Parts with Staging Mat

Having extra wide wet & dry bag to carry your clean and used pump parts make pumping more sanitary.

I also love using the staging mat so I can set-up & take down my pump parts on a clean surface. This staging mat snaps on to the backside of the bag so that you always have it handy. When you’re setting up and taking down your parts, you want a clean spot to do it, and now regardless of where you need to pump, you’ll have this with you. Just unsnap it from the bag and set it down on a flat surface – and you can do your set up right there. It’s also large enough for you to fit all your parts.

Take it one day at a time, Mama.

Breastfeeding while working as a nurse can be overwhelming, but you can do this!

There are a lot of products on the market and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave.  So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12 hour shifts).

After successfully pumping at work with two babies I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most.  I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!

It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work.  Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it.  Only you know what is right for you and your baby.

Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace and please reach out to me if you have any questions.  Breastfeeding while working as a nurse IS possible!  Good luck Mama!

Additional Recommended Reading: 

Pump At Work Supply Checklist From A Nurse Who Works 12 Hour Shifts

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

As an ER nurse who delivered my second baby in early 2018,  I have done a lot of research about pregnant nurse precautions to be aware of when you work in a hospital.  My goal was to make sure that it was safe for me to continue working in such a physically demanding environment with so many potential occupational hazards.

Fortunately, I was able to work safely right up until a few weeks before giving birth. As a per diem nurse, I did not have any maternity or disability benefits so I wanted to save up as much money as possible before I went out on leave.  Thankfully, I was able to do just that.  But safety was still my number one concern.  I hope this information can help other nurses stay safe during their pregnancies as well.  

Talk to your OBGYN

First off, it is always important that you talk to your doctor to discuss any occupational concerns you have during your pregnancy. Continue the dialog at your prenatal appointments as you move along your pregnancy.  If you have questions in between your appointments then contact your doctor.  

My goal in writing this is not to make pregnant nurses afraid to work in the hospital.  I am so glad that I was able to safely work as a pregnant nurse for as long as I did.  Still, there are no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.  

It is crucial that you communicate with management and your charge nurse about your pregnancy.  They cannot help you avoid potential pregnancy hazards if they don’t know that you are expecting. 

Pregnant nurse precautions to consider at work

Pregnant nurse precautions and hazards to consider:

Radiation from diagnostic imaging

In the ER and on most floor units within the hospital, patients often receive portable X-rays at the bedside.  So naturally I was concerned about radiation exposure and how it could impact the health of my unborn child.  I felt it was wise to air on the side of safety by not exposing myself to unnecessary radiation during pregnancy.  

If you are in an area where x-rays are being taken, you must wear a lead radiation apron to protect yourself, especially if you are within six feet of the machine.  If possible, it is also a good idea to step outside the room while the image is taken.

In my nursing experience, x-ray technicians usually notify anyone within the vicinity of where imaging is being taken.  I was able to leave the area for a few minutes, whether I was wearing a lead apron or not.  

Key takeaways:  

  • Notify management of pregnancy 
  • Wear lead radiation apron
  • Step outside of room when portable x-rays are taking place

Dangers from working with chemo or other teratogenic medications

There is evidence that handling some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause adverse reproductive outcomes including fetal loss, miscarriage, infertility and preterm births.  In addition, it may cause learning disabilities in babies exposed to some drugs if nurses are exposed during pregnancy. 

Wearing protective equipment, such as gowns, masks and gloves can minimize occupational risk to a pregnant nurse.  However, it does not completely eradicate it

Nurses working in oncology or other areas where antineoplastics are prescribed may want to speak with management about the safest way to continue working.  In addition, you can insist on getting help from co-workers or management to give teratogenic medications to patients.  Moving to another work area may be a consideration if safety for the fetus is still a concern. 

Key takeaways:

  • Wear protective equipment when giving medications
  • Ask for help from co-workers when working with teratogenic medications
  • Consider temporarily working in another area of the hospital during pregnancy as your management allows

Risk for infection

As a pregnant ER nurse I was very concerned with the risk of infection from patients such as c-diff, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, and influenza during my pregnancy.  Since the ER is often the first stop in the hospital for sick patients I often didn’t know that a patient had a contagious infection until after they had been admitted. By then it was too late to protect myself if I hadn’t already. 

Pregnant women need to be especially proactive with protective equipment and hand hygiene. It is ideal for all hospital employees to have their measles, mumps, and varicella zoster vaccinations before pregnancy (most facilities require these vaccinations to work anyway). Hep B and influenza vaccination can also safely be administered during pregnancy.

As an added precaution, I made sure to change my clothes and shoes before leaving the hospital to minimize the risk of work-to-home contamination.  The first thing I did upon getting home was take a shower to rid myself of any other possible bugs I could have inadvertently carried home with me.

Key takeaways:

  • Stay up to date in all vaccines including the yearly flu vaccine
  • Adhere to strict universal precautions and hand hygiene
  • Request job modification to minimize exposure to certain patient populations
  • Minimize work-to-home contamination by changing work clothes and shoes before going home
  • Shower as soon as you get home from work

Physicality of nursing while pregnant

Being a nurse while pregnant is especially hard work.  Not only are we on our feet for up to 12 hours a day, but pregnant nurses are also carrying an extra 25-plus pounds towards the latter part of pregnancy.  Additionally, the extra girth makes it significantly more difficult to fit into tight spaces.  

Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity.  In addition, high serum levels of progesterone and relaxin loosen muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues.  For nurses who do a lot of heavy, repetitive work requiring lifting, pulling or pushing their risk of musculoskeletal injury is increased.   

It is wise for pregnant nurses to use patient transfer equipment and to ask co-workers for help with moving patients.  However, if your work situation is still too physical for you to manage safely during pregnancy, you may want to consider a modified duty in a lower risk setting with a less physical patient load.  

On another note, pregnant nurses also have a higher risk of developing varicose veins due to an increase in total blood volume caused by pregnancy.  The added blood volume combined with being on one’s feet all day leads to poor circulation, puffy legs and swollen ankles.  Compression socks or stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots and varicose veins as well as prevent swelling.

Key takeaways:

  • Pregnant nurses may want to inquire about modified duty
  • Understand how the altered center of gravity and hormonal changes in pregnancy predispose a nurse to injury (despite using best lifting practices)
  • Use patient transfer equipment when available
  • Ask for additional staff help with transfers
  • Wear compression socks or stockings

Violent patients

I worked in our ER psychiatric hold area several times throughout my pregnancy.  There were a few incidences where I had patients verbally threaten me and/or begin to escalate towards violence.  I always had a security guard with me and I stayed a good distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk.  It is likely that I was overly cautious at times, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Violence against nurses is not uncommon, especially in the ER setting.  Stay vigilant and keep away from any potentially threatening situations.  If a patient is escalating towards violence then leave and call for help immediately.

Working during flu season

The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot.   Not only do hormone changes during pregnancy often make pregnant women more susceptible to getting the flu, but a common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby.  Getting vaccinated can also help protect a baby after birth from flu through passive immunity.

My experience:  The flu season in December 2017 was unusually bad.   Many patients came to our ER for flu symptoms.  Unfortunately, almost every nurse was infected with the flu or a cold at least once during the season.  Myself, included.  

At the time I was over 8 months pregnant and I was really struggling with a how horrible I felt.  I always get a flu shot to reduce my chances of getting sick during flu season.  However, if I ever got pregnant again, I might consider starting my maternity leave towards the beginning of flu season.  Especially, if I was that close to my due date.

An unexpected benefit of working as a nurse during pregnancy

One of the best gifts that pregnancy gave me was that it forced me to not be sedentary on days that I felt really tired. (Although while you are carrying an extra 25-35 pounds of extra weight, you may not consider it a benefit).

Many studies show that not moving enough during pregnancy is bad for both mom and baby.  If fact, exercise during pregnancy can actually boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter.  Who knew that working a 12 hour shift might actually promote health for both you and your unborn baby?

Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself mama!

Additional Recommended Reading: