In my last year of medical school, I completed most of my clinical clerkships while pregnant, including an internal medicine sub-internship during my third trimester. Whether you are pregnant while training or practicing as a physician, nurse, NP, PA, or other medical professional, this post is for you, as the hospital environment presents unique challenges for pregnant women.
Disclaimers: (a) This post is from a medical perspective rather than a surgical perspective – I didn’t spend any time in an OR while pregnant. (b) This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you click on the links in this post, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I’ve only linked to products that I personally used for several months and would recommend to my friends.
Tip #1: Bring a portable folding chair on rounds.
Standing for multiple hours a day is rough on anyone, and it’s even harder if you’re pregnant – so bring a chair! This is not as inconvenient or awkward as it sounds. Before starting an inpatient service where rounds regularly took 4-5 hours, I did a lot of research to find a chair that was lightweight and portable but could still accommodate my widened pregnancy hips. This is the chair I bought and sat in during rounds every day: Drive Medical RTL10360 Foldable Walking Cane with Seat.
I liked this particular chair because I could sit down on it like a normal chair and my weight was distributed across my “sit bones” unlike some golf chairs and “Little League chairs” that expect you to straddle a piece of cloth, which doesn’t work if you’re wearing a skirt and puts way too much strain on your pelvic floor. Beautiful MS Paint diagram:
The chair is made of hollow aluminum and only weighs 2.5 pounds, but can support a person of up to 250 pounds.
It was great to be able to sit down whenever and wherever I needed to – in the hallways, while talking with my team, while I talked to patients, waiting for the elevator, if I got dizzy, if my feet hurt, if I just needed to rest. The chair was super easy to carry – it folds up into a cane shape (see photo below) so I’d sling it over one arm and carry it in my elbow:
Something that surprised me about the chair was the overwhelmingly positive response. I had thought people were going to give me a hard time about it but people loved it. The few times I forgot my chair on rounds, patients’ family members would see me standing there with my pregnant belly and would try to give me their chairs. Several people on my teams and several patients asked for the link to the chair so they could get one too. Although, I have to say, even if everyone else in the world had hated my chair, I would’ve still brought it everywhere because I loved it and it saved my body.
Tip #2: Wear wide tennis shoes.
Medical footwear fashions change, but one constant remains – women’s shoes are almost always too narrow. Overall, 88% of women wear shoes that are too small! If you want to know your true shoe size, the easiest way is to measure your feet and check a size chart that includes both length and width. If you end up with swollen feet in pregnancy, you may have to go up a length size and/or up a width size.
For a while clogs/Danskos were popular in the hospital, but I think this is mostly because clogs tend to be built wider than other kinds of shoes. I never liked wearing clogs while pregnant because I felt like I was going to trip. The most comfortable shoes for me were wide tennis shoes – specifically XX-wide New Balance running shoes with good support (I bought myself New Balance men’s 880s because men’s shoes have even wider sizes than the corresponding women’s shoes). I like New Balance because they make wide, X-wide, and XX-wide shoes.
Tip #3: Wear full-leg compression tights.
I wore these NuVein full length open toe black compression tights every day. They drastically reduced my foot swelling and leg aching, and the “open toe” feature also worked with the toe socks I like to wear. (NuVein also makes full length closed toe compression tights if you prefer closed toes.) For me, these tights were comfortable under scrubs as well as with dresses. And yes, I did wear dresses with running shoes almost every day – here is some evidence:
Since the compression tights were hip-height instead of waist-height, I also wore these super comfy pregnancy biking shorts to prevent leg chafing.
Tip #4: Bring a ton of food and water.
While I was pregnant I ended up having to consume over 3,000 calories every day (ABSURD) in order to gain enough weight. I have never eaten so much food in my life. I brought a lot of food in my bag – meals as well as snacks and snacks and more snacks (especially Perfect bars which I liked for the protein, and Larabars – chocolate peanut caramel truffle is officially the new best flavor of Larabar). I was also always thirsty, and had dizziness from low blood pressure that got worse if I didn’t drink like a camel, so I brought multiple of these refillable water bottles with me. Basically my entire backpack was jammed full of food and water that I consumed through the course of the day.
Tip #5: Sleep/relax as much as possible at home.
Pregnancy is exhausting. I have never been as lead-weight tired as I was while pregnant. I slept as much as I could. I loved these pregnancy/nursing pajamas because they are soft, light, loose, and have easily adjustable waistbands in the pants so you can wear them before, during, and after pregnancy. I’m still wearing mine even months later! (And, I must confess, I sometimes wear the black pajama pants as if they are regular pants…)
Tip #6: Advocate for yourself.
In importance, this tip is really #1. If you aren’t feeling up for taking the stairs, ask to take the elevator. If you have to go the the restroom for the umpteenth time because your poor crushed bladder has no capacity, or if you need a few minutes to eat a protein bar and drink some water, then take the time you need to take care of yourself. Being pregnant is a great time to practice extra self-care, for you and your baby. I was very nervous about being on the wards while pregnant, but it turned out just fine, and I met many other mothers-to-be around the hospital. You are not alone! You are awesome and you can do it 🙂
The featured image is from womenshealth.gov and is free of copyright restrictions.