*This post may contain affiliate links. You can find our disclosure page here. *Post updated on 11/20/19
Nursing is a challenging career, and working 12 hour shifts as a pregnant nurse is no exception. In fact, most pregnant nurses are concerned about occupational precautions as well as the health of their unborn babies at some point during their pregnancies.
Some of the questions I asked when I was working as a pregnant nurse were:
Was I going to be able to tolerate being on my feet all day?
What is the best way to prevent dehydration as a pregnant nurse working 12 hour shifts?
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. In fact, many nurses work all the way through their pregnancies until a few weeks or days before they give birth. This information is intended to help you thrive while working as a nurse while pregnant.
Talk to you OBGYN about your concerns about working as a pregnant nurse
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.
It is also crucial that you communicate with hospital 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.
Physical challenges of working as a nurse while pregnant
The physicality of working as a pregnant nurse can be very difficult for some women, especially for those working on high acuity floors such as the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit. However, many hospital units are able to offer modified duty for pregnant nurses who have instructions from their doctors to stay off their feet.
However, there are still a few physical challenges that pregnant nurses should consider during nursing shifts:
Working night shift or rotating schedules
Standing and walking for long periods of time
Managing nausea during shifts
Additional pregnant nurse precautions and occupational hazards to consider
Nursing is unique to many other professions because there are a lot of additional occupational hazards to consider, especially for the pregnant nurse. Working as a nurse while pregnant can be dangerous for both mom and fetus, therefore it is always important to wear the correct protective equipment or even possible refrain from working with some patients with highly infectious diseases.
Here are a few pregnant nurse precautions to consider:
Radiation from diagnostic imaging
Standing and walking for long periods of time
Working with chemo or other teratogenic medications
Risk of infections such as c-diff, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, and influenza
Physicality of working as a pregnant nurse (such as pulling patients up in bed)
Increased risk of varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time
Compression socks and stockings help pregnant 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
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.
Working as a nurse while pregnant requires that you fuel your body with healthy nutrients to keep your energy up!
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:
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
Prenatal yoga can help pregnant nurses deal with stress throughout their pregnancies.
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:
Low impact aerobics
6. Reconsider working the night shift
Working the night shift can be especially challenging for nurses during their pregnancies. 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
Many facilities are able to offer modified duty for pregnant 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
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.
*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. Breastfeeding 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 another 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).
This pumping essential is the highest on the must-have items, 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 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 another. You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)
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 use as well. Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (it’s a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).
I also like the Medela screw-on lids better than some other brands because they are leakproof. (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.
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 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.
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.
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!
My freezer got a little overloaded 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, a 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!
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.
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! I hope this list of pumping essentials helps you too!
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!
*Updated on 4/9/20 to include pregnant nurse precautions for COVID-19. *Affiliate links.
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, you must 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 is no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.
You must 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 and hazards to consider:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has many pregnant healthcare providers, especially frontline nurses, uniquely concerned. Because COVID-19 is so new, there hasn’t been enough time to study its effects on breastfeeding or pregnant women. Also, many nurses who are working directly with COVID-19 patients say they don’t have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from the virus safely. That maybe even more problematic for pregnant nurses who directly care for COVID-19 patients.
“We do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Pregnant women also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)* and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, during pregnancy.”
“Pregnant healthcare personnel (HCP) should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines for HCP exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting all HCP in healthcare settings. Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is very limited; facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant HCP to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, especially during higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) if feasible based on staffing availability.”
Essentially, the CDC does not know at this time if pregnant women are at a higher risk when working with COVID-19 patients because the evidence is limited. As a precaution, pregnant women may want to consider working in lower-risk areas where they have less exposure to COVID-19 patients.
The most important take away is to always take care of yourself first. You can’t care for your family and your patients if you become sick.
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.
Notify management of pregnancy
Wear lead radiation apron
Step outside of the 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.
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.
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
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.
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 specific 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
The physicality of nursing while pregnant
Being a nurse while pregnant is exceptionally 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 challenging to fit into tight spaces.
Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity. Also, 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.
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)
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 or begin to escalate towards violence. I always had a security guard with me, and I stayed a reasonable distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk. I was likely 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 a 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 eight months pregnant, and I was struggling with 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 the 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 fatigued. (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 boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter. Who knew that working a 12-hour shift might promote health for both you and your unborn baby?
Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself!
I experienced a silent placental abruption when I was 33 weeks pregnant with my daughter.
In case you are wondering what that is, I’ll explain: a placental abruption occurs when the placenta (the lifeline delivering blood, oxygen and nutrients to our baby) peels away from the uterus. It deprives the fetus of oxygen and causes the mother to hemorrhage internally.
One week before I had our daughter via emergency c-section at 33 weeks.
The most common symptoms of placental abruption are bleeding and abdominal pain. Because I had neither symptom it was considered a silent placental abruption. It was especially unusual in my situation because I had no risk factors.
I got the flu about 5 days before my silent placental abruption was discovered.
As a nurse I knew that just having a cold or flu generally doesn’t hurt an unborn baby and may even give her a few extra antibodies. I decided the best thing to do was rest and drink lots of fluids.
But to my surprise, two days later I wasn’t feeling better and had worsening fatigue, dizziness, a horrible sore throat, and a headache.
I called the OB floor at our hospital and was directed to an advice nurse.
After a 30 minute phone interview and a detailed discussion about my symptoms I was instructed to stay home. I just had the flu, she said. I should rest and drink lots of fluids. So I took the advice and tried to rest as much as I could.
Fast forward two more days and my dizziness and symptoms were only getting worse. I was even having difficulty walking from one side of the house to the other. So again, I called the OB unit at my hospital because I thought for sure they would want me to come in.
I spoke with both the on-call OBGYN on the unit and another advice nurse. After another detailed discussion about my symptoms I was again instructed to stay home. “Please do not come to the hospital,” the doctor stated clearly. “There is nothing we can do for you.”
I tried to explain the best I could that I was extremely weak and short of breath when walking more then 20 feet. I didn’t have a fever, but I had never felt more sick in my life. They told me I just had the flu and needed to “ride it out.”
So I laid in my bed and cried for 30 minutes because every inch of my body was hurting so much that I could barely stand it anymore. I had a hard time catching my breath.
(Later we found out that the reason I felt so horrible was that my hemoglobin was extraordinarily low due to the silent placental abruption already having started. My hemoglobin (the oxygen carrying component of a blood cell) at that time was 6 grams per deciliter. The normal level is 12.0 to 15.5 grams.)
I laid down for an hour and started doing “kick counts.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you time how long it takes you to feel 10 kicks, flutters, swishes, or rolls. Ideally, you want to feel at least 10 movements within 2 hours. Usually a mom can feel 10 movements in less time than that.
But I only felt 4 or 5 movements in that hour period. But my body was so sick and achy that I wasn’t sure exactly what I was feeling, so I drank two large glasses of orange juice and ate a small bag of gummy Lifesavers. I was determined to sugar-shock my baby into giving me more fetal movements.
I began counting kicks for a second hour. But after about 40 minutes I still only counted about 3-4 pretty weak kicks. At that point I decided I wanted to see a doctor, even if they thought I was overreacting.
I called my husband and asked him to come home and drive me to the hospital.
When we arrived at the labor and delivery unit I was immediately given a mask and asked why I came to the hospital after I was specifically told not to. I was once again reminded that I was bringing my flu into the hospital and putting patients at risk for infection. They were clearly frustrated with me by the tone of their voices. I kept thinking “am I not a patient too?”
I explained my symptoms once again and told them that I thought the baby should be kicking more. They put me in a room and we waited for the on-call OBGYN.
When she arrived she did an ultrasound. I could tell by the look on her face that something was very wrong. She stated very clearly that she was extremely concerned about our baby’s safety. This is what she told us:
I had almost no amniotic fluid.
The little amount of amniotic fluid that was there was the wrong color and she couldn’t explain why.
Our baby’s fetal heart rate was “not reassuring” which is another way of saying that our baby was alive but in distress.
It was likely I would have an emergency C-section imminently.
She didn’t know at that time I was actually having a silent placental abruption. Apparently it is very hard to diagnose on ultrasound.
(We later found out that the amniotic fluid was showing as the wrong color because it was actually blood, not amniotic fluid. I had already been bleeding into my uterus and our daughter had been swallowing blood. After the C-section they pumped 15 cc’s of blood out of our daughter’s stomach and she pooped blood for the next few days.)
A team of preemie doctors came in to prepare us.
The preemie doctors explained in detail what would most likely happen to our daughter since she was coming out 7 weeks early. They said it was likely that our daughter would not be able to breathe on her own and that she would need to be intubated (using a machine that breathes for her). In the case that I didn’t hear her cry after delivery, they wanted to make sure I was prepared for that possibility.
We were also told to prepare for 30 days in the NICU, which was the average length of stay for a “33 weeker.” They initially wanted to try delaying a c-section for 48 hours so they could give me steroids to help develop our baby’s lungs develop faster. But we weren’t able to wait that long.
Within a few hours things got much worse.
Soon, I started hemorrhaging and was having what felt like one long contraction that wouldn’t stop.
Our OB determined that I was not actually in labor as my cervix was completely closed. She thought it was best to take the baby out right then because something was very wrong, but she didn’t know exactly what yet. I was wheeled across the hall for the emergency C-section.
Our daughter, Zoe Grace, was born.
Zoe came out at 4 pounds, 3 ounces. After being suctioned, she let out a tiny little cry that I will never forget. It was the best and most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life.
The doctor was able to confirm during the c-section that I had a placental abruption. My placenta was 30% detached from my uterus.
The next day our neonatologist told us that Zoe had no signs of brain damage and we had a “very healthy baby considering the circumstances.” He then let me know bluntly, and in no censored way that “babies born under my circumstances usually don’t survive and the mothers often don’t do that well either.” He basically told me he couldn’t believe that she had no brain damage.
We were so grateful for the excellent care she received in the NICU.
We were so grateful for the excellent care Zoe got in the NICU.
Admittedly, I was shocked when I saw her for the first time. She was in an incubator hooked up to so many IV’s and tubes. And she was so very tiny.
For the first 48 hours I was not allowed to hold her. That was so hard for me! But, I could put my hands in the incubator and place one hand on the top of her head and one on her feet. I remember telling her how proud we were of her. She was a tough little gal right from the start. “Tiny but mighty” was what the doctor said. What a wonderful feeling it was to finally be able to finally hold her on her third day of life.
Zoe had an oral-gastric feeding tube for nutrition since she was unable to eat for the first 7 days on her own. I would pump breast milk and give it to the nurses so they could feed her through her OG tube.
She was also receiving TPN (IV nutrition) and lipids (fats) through 2 IV lines. That was probably the most difficult part to watch. Preemie veins are so tiny that it would often take an hour of poking to get the IV in. And they didn’t last very long so she was constantly being stuck with needles.
She was on oxygen and a cpap machine for the first week to help her continue breathing on her own. She was also kept under a bilirubin light for 5 days to treat her jaundice.
2nd week in the NICU. Zoe earned the nickname “tiny but mighty.”
Zoe got a little stronger every day.
Our “tiny but mighty” preemie started doing more on her own, like eating through a preemie nipple and no longer needing the IV nutrition.
We were shocked on our 9th day in the NICU when we were informed that Zoe would be discharged the next day. I knew she was doing well, but we were told that due to her stage of prematurity that she would stay for at least a month. She was so tiny I couldn’t believe they were letting us take her home.
My experience taught me a few things…
Mothers need to trust their instincts. We know much more then we give ourselves credit for.
Kick counts are very important after 28 weeks gestation. If you feel less than the normal amount of kicks then you should see your OBGYN immediately.
Having a healthy baby is a gift. Not everyone gets to have that.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t gone into the hospital that evening, especially after being told not to by the staff. My life would have been turned up-side-down. I am so glad that I trusted my instincts that night!
I am so blessed that I get to be a mom.
Not everyone gets to have healthy baby, or a baby at all for that matter. Whenever I find myself getting frustrated with the difficulties that come with parenthood, I think about how close we were to not getting to have Zoe at all. That puts it all into perspective for me.
Our baby Zoe is turned 3 years old on Halloween. She loves Elmo so she decided to choose Elmo as her Halloween costume. In honor of her birthday our family dressed up as the whole Sesame Street gang. My husband was Cookie Monster, I was Big Bird, and our 9-month-old son, Oliver, was Ernie. It was a wonderful celebration that I especially treasured because I know just how lucky I am to have two “tiny but mighty” kiddos.
(This baby proofing checklist post may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
To all new parents: just in case you didn’t know, you need to baby-proof your house!
It all happens so fast. First, the baby starts to roll and crawl. Then they start “cruising.” And finally, your sweet little bundle of joy takes his or her first Frankenstein steps. And just like that, you have a walker!
Now, I may be just a tad overzealous when it comes to baby-proofing our house. After all, I am an ER nurse, and I have seen what can happen when a home isn’t baby proofed. (To top that off, our 8-month-old baby just started cruising with his Vtech walker. Gasp!)
I wrote this baby proofing checklist in honor of emergency nurses weekand my desire to encourage other parents to take an active stance in baby proofing their homes. If you are anything like us, you may be a tad bit sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. I hope this list helps to make it easier to create a more baby-friendly home
Why is having a baby proofing checklist so essential?
You would be surprised at how quickly babies can hurt themselves. The prevention of accidental injuries is the #1 reason why babies need safe physical boundaries in place.
Think of it like this: Playtime + baby-proofed home = safe space for growth and learning opportunities!
As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our kids are in a safe environment. Children need a secure place to get messy, play, explore, learn, and have fun.
Here are a few things to consider when baby proofing your home:
The first item on our baby proofing checklist is the safety gate. One second your baby is playing in one spot, the next they are on the other side of the house trying to open up the cutlery drawer in the kitchen. Once babies learn how to crawl or walk, they can be surprisingly fast! Safety gates help keep kiddos within a safe area. Remember that you want to make sure safety gates are screwed into the wall if they are at the top of a staircase.
Note: Although safety gates are a great way to keep your baby safer, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get hurt on them. A study from 2014 found that as many as 2,000 U.S. kids visit the emergency room for treatments resulting from injuries caused by climbing or falling through gates.
Although they appear to be just tiny pieces of plastic, corner guards and edge bumpers have been instrumental in preventing a few very BIG injuries. Why? Because many corners on tables and shelves are at the same height as toddler’s heads when they are standing (or worse, running). Hello, head injury!
If your toddler runs into the corner of a piece of furniture with a corner guard or edge bumper, they are much less likely to sustain a serious head injury. We have corner guards on our kitchen table, coffee table, bookshelf edges, fireplace, and even our bedroom side tables.
Doesn’t it seem as if toddlers like to explore in every space you DON’T want them to be? Small children are curious creatures, and forbidden places are exciting to them. They love testing their boundaries. Doorknob covers are great for keeping little ones out of the areas you don’t want them wandering into. Especially places like broom closets, bathrooms, or out the front door.
Door nob covers just spin in circles if a toddler tries to open it. But adults can easily open it by squeezing it tightly and turning the knob.
Screens are not enough to keep a child from falling out of a window. And if children can open a window, then there is the possibility of an accident. Children can be resourceful by climbing on furniture or toys to reach windows, so even if you think there is no way they could reach them, window guards are still a good idea.
Side note: I don’t love that these window guards do not let me put the windows up all the way. But I would rather have them in place than risk having a horrible accident.
Toddlers love exploration and will open up every single drawer and cabinet in your home. And if there is one that isn’t locked, I assure you, they will find it! Use safety latches to keep household chemicals, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous things out of the reach of tiny hands.
There are several types of safety locks that you can buy depending on how much you want to spend and how much work you want to put in. We use the 3M safety locks and they work great. You can install them instantly without any drilling and can uninstall them easily when you no longer need them.
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the house for a toddler. It wouldn’t be difficult for a tiny hand to reach up and turn on a stove the moment you are not looking. Stove knob covers work very much like doorknob covers and makes it impossible for a toddler to turn on.
Note: It is a good idea to get into a new habit of using only the rear stove burners to reduce the chances that your little ones can get burned. If you do need to use the front burners, always make sure the handles of any pots or pans are facing inwards so those little ones can’t pull them off the stove and sustain a burn injury.
The toilet bowl is a fascinating place for toddlers, and they may feel inclined to look inside the bowl to see what is in there. They may even try and pull themselves up onto the toilet. However, a toddler’s head is huge in proportion to their body. The weight of their heads would make it hard to pull themselves out if they accidentally fell in. So make it impossible for them to pull the lid up with a toilet lock cover.
It is a good idea to secure all tip-able furniture to the wall. As toddlers become more mobile they may climb on furniture, such as a bookshelf, causing it to tip over. Secondly, in the event of an earthquake, you don’t want any heavy furniture falling over on the little humans below (we live in California, so we have to think about that here!). For aesthetics, you can anchor furniture from the backside so you can’t even see it unless you are looking.
I hope you enjoyed reading this baby proofing checklist, written by an emergency room nurse & mom. It is always better to plan ahead and create safe spaces for our little ones. Accidents happen fast, but by setting up a few safety systems throughout the house, you can decrease the chances of having to take your child to the emergency room. Stay safe!
( *Post updated 3/9/2020. There are affiliate links in this post. You can see my disclosure page here.)
Who knew that a crib tent would give our family the gift of sleep (and sanity)? I purchased our crib tent 16 months ago, and it has since become my #1 most important toddler purchase, ever.
Just to give a little background: our daughter was never a good sleeper (sweet as pie, but hated going to sleep). As a result, delirium due to a lack of sleep became a “normal” part of our family’s daily routine.
So, when our daughter was ten months old, I hired a sleep trainer. Her methods were a success, and we all finally started sleeping again!
But then, after nearly six consecutive months of almost uninterrupted slumber, the unimaginable happened. Our toddler, Zoe, learned how to climb out of her crib!
Our toddler’s “crib jumping” was a problem.
Once again, we were all losing sleep. My toddlers daredevil escapes seriously concerned me because:
It was unsafe. Our tiny toddler could seriously injure herself by falling several feet or getting stuck between the slats.
I did not want her wandering alone through the house at night. Again, a significant safety issue.
My husband and I were not going to get a good night’s sleep until we found a solution we were comfortable with. We were all sleep-deprived but also experiencing daily stress from this new problem.
Sleep is important.
Sleep is so crucial for both physical and mental health.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep is linked to hypertension, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and several other chronic diseases.
The National Sleep Foundation also states that sleep is especially crucial for children because it is when blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.
We looked at several alternatives.
After getting over the shock of my daughter’s uncanny ability to scale the crib, we tried several things to deter her.
We took out the bottom of the crib, so the mattress was on the floor to make her escape more difficult. That stopped her from climbing out for exactly one night, and then she was back at it again.
We took everything out of her crib so she couldn’t use it as a prop to climb out. This method didn’t stop her either.
We watched our toddler climb out of her crib on a monitor so we could see exactly how she was doing it. She made it look so easy! She held on to the top bar and put her feet in between the crib slates, hoisting herself to the top, then she teetered on the top bar and balanced until she could get both feet over the sides and jump to the floor. Usually, with a big SPLAT.
A toddler bed was not yet an option.
I scored the internet for more suggestions and solutions. A toddler bed was out of the question because our toddler would not stay in her bed (or room for that matter) for more than 1 minute.
Inevitably, we would end up having a little visitor in bed with us every night for the foreseeable future (or worse, roaming the house!).
My priority for our daughter was safety. I didn’t want her to get hurt while climbing out of her crib, but I also didn’t want her wandering around the house in the middle of the night either. And frankly, we ALL needed to get some sleep!
I read a ton of reviews on this crib tent, and it sounded like people were having a lot of success without having any safety issues. From my personal experience, these are the reasons this crib tent has been a gift from the sleep Gods.
Our toddler could no longer get stuck between the rails (which previously happened several times!).
Our toddler was unable to grip the sides of the railing, which prevented her from scaling the crib walls.
The material is made from BPA-free mesh netting and is hypoallergenic.
The crib tent fits snugly over the crib, and our toddler couldn’t get stuck in the crib netting. The bottom of the crib tent sits under the mattress.
It was super easy and fast to set up. No extra tools were required.
We ALL finally got the sleep we needed and finally felt refreshed again during the day.