Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant (2023)
*This post contains affiliate links. Updated from original post on 11/4/18
Working 12-hour shifts as a nurse can be physically and emotionally demanding, and these challenges are compounded for a nurse who is pregnant.
Pregnant nurses may have concerns about the impact of working long hours on their health and that of their unborn child. They may also worry about exposure to harmful substances, such as radiation, chemicals, or infectious diseases.
I had a lot of questions at the beginning of my first pregnancy when I worked as a nurse:
- Would I tolerate being on my feet all day?
- What is the best way to prevent dehydration as a pregnant nurse working 12-hour shifts?
- 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, some nurses work all the way through their pregnancies until a few weeks or days before they give birth. However, it is important to remember that everyone has a different experience, and it is important to speak with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife before making any decisions about what is right for you.
Talk to Your 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 with your pregnancy. If you have questions or concerns in between your appointments, contact your healthcare provider.
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 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 or intensive care unit. However, many hospital units are able to offer modified duties for pregnant nurses who have instructions from their doctors to stay off their feet.
Fatigue is a common concern for pregnant nurses who work long shifts. Pregnancy can cause fatigue due to hormonal changes and increased physical demands on the body. Long shifts can exacerbate this fatigue.
There are also other physical challenges pregnant nurses should consider during nursing shifts:
- Working night shift or rotating schedules
- Heavy lifting
- Standing and walking for long periods of time
- Managing nausea during shifts
Additional Pregnant Nurse Precautions and Occupational Hazards to Consider
Pregnant nurses may be concerned about exposure to harmful substances in the workplace. Certain chemicals, such as cleaning agents and pesticides, can be toxic to developing fetuses.
Nurses who work in settings where radiation is used, such as radiology departments, may also be concerned about the impact of exposure on their pregnancy.
Furthermore, infectious diseases pose a risk to pregnant nurses and their unborn child, particularly if the nurse is working with patients who have communicable illnesses.
Therefore, it is always important to wear the correct protective equipment or even possibly refrain from working with some patients.
Here is a list of some 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
- The 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
- Working with a potentially violent patient
Here Are Nine Helpful Tips for Pregnant Nurses
1. Wear Compression Socks
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, it’s time to get a couple of pairs ASAP.
- 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!
Every nurse needs a great pair of shoes to get through a 12-hour shift. But the benefits of 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.
- Support and stability
- Slip resistance
- Work function
- Price and warranty
You can read more about the best shoes for nurses here!
The Reebok Women’s Classic Renaissance Sneaker is an example of a great nursing shoe for pregnant nurses. They are comfortable and supportive, with a slip-resistant sole that fits the activity level of being a nurse. Plus, they have extra cushioning in the right places to help you stay on your feet all day long. The added bonus is they also come at an affordable price.
3. Pack Healthy and Energizing Snacks
During my first trimester, when I was pregnant with my second child, 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 every day, 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.
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 were the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had ever had. Never underestimate the hunger of a pregnant nurse. I always felt better and was able to continue working afterward.
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
- Veggies and hummus
Consider throwing some healthy snack packs into your work bag for emergencies! It’s better to be prepared than tempted by the vending machine. Good luck, and remember – you got this!
4. Go to Bed Early
You simply cannot sleep too much when you are pregnant. I don’t think there is any scientific evidence to back up my claim about this. However, that was definitely my experience during pregnancy.
Here is a sleep secret that got me 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 30 minutes. I set my phone alarm to make sure I was back to work on time. 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. I was that tired.
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- and during the day if needed. Utilize every lunch break you have at work to take mini power naps like I did!
5. Get Some Movement If Everyday (If Your Healthcare Provider Says Its OK)
It seems counterintuitive, but exercising while pregnant may actually give you more energy to get through a 12-hour shift. In addition, exercise during pregnancy can help prevent gestational diabetes and hypertension.
(It is important to talk to your doctor about starting any exercise routine during pregnancy. There are some circumstances your doctor may advise you not to exercise while pregnant.)
Non-impact exercises for pregnant nurses may include:
- Prenatal yoga
- Hand weights
- Low impact aerobics
6. Reconsider Working the Night 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 the 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
As a pregnant nurse, it may be necessary to have a modified work assignment, especially for those who work in rigorous units such as the emergency department. The physical demands of pregnancy might be too much for those 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. Although with pregnancy, you can’t predict the future, and babies tend to come when they are ready. Things happen and you may have to leave early anyway, but keeping communication open istypically not a bad idea.
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 than six hours a day. While six hours may seem like a lot for 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 – which, in hindsight, I realize was ridiculous. I thought I had the grit to work all the way through.
So, I waited for two weeks before I finally presented my doctor’s 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 had a placental abruption two weeks later and had an emergency c-section seven weeks before my due date. It is wise to listen to your doctor’s advice!
9. Enjoy Your Pregnancy
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 hopefully is – a time filled with some good health, gratitude, abundance, and most of all, joy.
Working as A Nurse While Pregnant Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to work as a nurse while pregnant?
Yes, it can be safe to work as a nurse while pregnant, but it depends on various factors, including the type of work you do, your health condition, and the pregnancy itself. You should always consult with your healthcare provider and employer to assess any potential risks and discuss any necessary adjustments to your work duties or schedule.
How long should nurses work while pregnant?
The duration that a nurse should work while pregnant can vary depending on the individual’s health, pregnancy condition, and the demands of their job. Some nurses may need to reduce their hours or stop working earlier in pregnancy than others. It’s best to discuss this with your healthcare provider and employer to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.
What should I avoid as a pregnant nurse?
As a pregnant nurse, you should avoid any tasks or activities that may be hazardous to your health or the health of your unborn child. These may include exposure to harmful chemicals, radiation, infectious diseases, and heavy lifting or repetitive motions that can cause strain or injury. It’s essential to discuss any potential risks with your healthcare provider and employer to ensure that you can safely perform your job duties.
Should I work 12-hour shifts pregnant?
Working 12-hour shifts while pregnant can be challenging, especially as the pregnancy progresses, and fatigue sets in. It’s important to discuss your work schedule with your healthcare provider and employer to determine the best course of action for your specific situation. They may recommend reducing your hours or taking more frequent breaks to help manage your energy levels and reduce stress.
What jobs are unsafe during pregnancy?
Some jobs may be considered unsafe during pregnancy, depending on the level of physical exertion, exposure to hazards, or risks to the health of the mother and baby. Examples of jobs that may be considered unsafe include those involving heavy lifting, exposure to radiation or chemicals, prolonged standing, or exposure to infectious diseases. It’s crucial to discuss any potential risks with your healthcare provider and employer to determine the best course of action.
Which work should you avoid during pregnancy?
As mentioned earlier, jobs involving heavy lifting, exposure to radiation or chemicals, prolonged standing, or infectious diseases should be avoided during pregnancy. Other jobs that may be physically demanding or high-stress may also be challenging to manage while pregnant.
What week should I stop working during pregnancy?
The ideal week to stop working during pregnancy can vary depending on various factors, including the pregnancy condition, the demands of the job, and the individual’s health. Some women may need to stop working earlier in pregnancy, while others may be able to work until closer to their due date. It’s essential to discuss this with your healthcare provider and employer to determine the best course of action.
What month should a pregnant woman stop working?
Similar to the previous question, the month that a pregnant woman should stop working can vary depending on various factors. Some women may need to stop working as early as the first trimester, while others may be able to work until the end of the second or even third trimester. It’s crucial to discuss this with your healthcare provider and employer to determine the best course of action.
How do you explain leaving a job due to pregnancy?
Explaining leaving a job due to pregnancy should be done with honesty and professionalism. You can simply state that you needed to leave your job to focus on your health and the health of your unborn child. It’s important to be clear and concise in your explanation and to provide any necessary documentation or medical notes as requested.
Additional recommended reading:
- How To Pump At Work As A Nurse
- Precautions For Pregnant Nurses At Work
- Is Nursing A Good Career For Moms?
- Pros And Cons Of 12 Hour Nursing Shifts
- Best Holiday Gifts For Pregnant Nurses