Shift work can be physically and mentally challenging for everyone, but if you are pregnant it can be especially exhausting! Being a Registered Nurse, I worked shift work through all of my pregnancies. It can definitely have its perks, but they seem to come at a price… exhaustion! So if you are pregnant and working shift work, it is important that you work closely with your physician or obstetrician to ensure that you and your baby are staying healthy. There is no magical formula that I can give you to help you get through twelve hour day shifts and tiring night shifts, but I can give you some tips to keep in mind that may help you through.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a good relationship with your physician, and be able to openly communicate how you are feeling both physically and mentally in your pregnancy. If you are feeling like twelve hour shifts are too much, or you just can’t seem to recover from your night shifts talk to them about it, there are options. Maybe they need to write a letter for your employer stating that you need less hours, less night shifts, or no more night shifts? Whatever that looks like will be very individual, you and your baby are unique. One thing is common though…every Mama needs to voice her concerns so the physician can help!
Sleep is so important and can be so hard with shift work. It is very important that you set up a good sleep environment. Blackout blinds will be well worth the investment if you don’t have them already. White noise is a great way to cancel out any disruptive sounds to help keep your sleep undisturbed. A sound machine or a fan are great for consistent white noise. Electronics before sleep can hinder the release of melatonin, which is our body’s natural way of signalling sleep. Try exchanging your phone for a good book or magazine before sleep. Is your bed comfy? This is a big one, if your bed isn’t comfy and cozy you will have a more disturbed sleep. Maybe you are waking up from aches and pains? How old is your mattress? Has it lived its life and needs replacement? A good bed will go a long way.
Ask your family or roommates to “keep it down” while you are sleeping during the day if they are home, or coming and going. If you have other children it can be rough trying to sleep. Plan for them to hang out at someone else’s house, daycare or even Dad can take them out for the day! It is so hard for them to understand how important your sleep is! On your days off it is a good idea to not “over do it”. You need to take every opportunity to rest and recover from your shifts. Ask for help with big projects around home, and pace yourself. Nesting can really trigger you to want to do everything! Try making lists and tackling small jobs daily instead of packing it all into one day.
NUTRITION & HYDRATION
It is important that you fuel your body with healthy foods that will give you energy and satisfy you. Be sure to take your prenatal vitamins regularly and refer to Canada’s Food Guide for great information on healthy eating. Meal prepping and planning ahead for shift work can really help as you may feel tired (and possibly uninspired!) when you are in the middle of a set of shifts. Hydration is important for everyone, but especially when you are pregnant. Take a water bottle with you and be sure to refill it regularly while at work.
This can be difficult- especially at night, but keeping hydrated will help you feel better in the long run. Setting a goal ahead of time for how much you need to drink on your shift, and checking in on that goal every couple of hours can really help keep you on track. If you aren’t a fan of water, maybe try infusing it with fruit, or try it hot if you feel like warming up. Sometimes in pregnancy we have to get creative, and find ways to work with our cravings and aversions to certain food and drink.
If you have questions about your pregnancy, or would like to take a prenatal class please reach out to a Mama Coach in your area. We offer private and group prenatal classes that are ideal for shift workers! You got this Mama!