I wouldn’t call myself a pro at pregnancy, but with this being my third you could say that I have learned a thing or two about the balancing act of being pregnant and practicing hygiene. Being pregnant and working hygiene is no walk in the park. The body is going through many transformations which can be VERY challenging to work through. Let's start at the beginning.
You have just read that little stick saying that you are pregnant. The first big work decision is how and when to tell your office that you are pregnant. One thing to note is that pregnant women shouldn’t use nitrous (see THIS RDH Magazine article) If you or your dentist needs to use nitrous on the patient then you shouldn’t be the one to administer any treatment to that patient while on nitrous. Better safe than sorry. You may decide not to tell the whole office for now but at least consider the dentist so they understand why you are refusing to treat some patients.
The nice thing about scrubs is that your growing belly will be kept hidden for several months if you want to keep it a secret a little longer. However, if you are sick pretty soon your coworkers are going to notice. Go ahead, let them in on the good news so you can get a little sympathy because those first few months can be really tough without some help.
Honestly, I have worried about telling my boss that I was pregnant for fear that I would get replaced or not advanced. According the United States Department of Labor Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 an employer with 15 or more employees can not fire you because you are pregnant, and must permit you to continue working as long as you are able. Some states have laws that cover employers with less than 15 employees. If you work for an employer with less than 15 employees, check with your regional Women's Bureau Office to see if your state has an agency that can help you.
If it is your full intent to stay once the baby comes, make sure your employer knows. I planned to return after my babies and my conversation went as such:
“I wanted to let you know that I am 8 weeks pregnant. I have been feeling pretty ill but have been managing it with food and medication. I intend on returning once the baby is born. I will find, and help train an awesome temp while I am on a brief maternity leave. You can count on me to be here and ready to work as usual.”
I like to give them confidence that I can still properly treat patients and minimize the fact that I will be taking time off. I always figure that I could get into an accident and break my working arm at anytime and they would have to manage for a few weeks until I recover so they can handle a planned time off.
I get asked often how I managed to work through my “morning sickness.” If you are one of the lucky ones who doesn't get sick while pregnant then I invite you to produce away, and count your blessings. For the larger percentage of us who experience pregnancy sickness, this is where it gets difficult. There have been a many a time when I have had to puke between patients or excuse myself in the middle of an appointment to loose my lunch. If I need to leave mid-appointment I find some excuse, for example, “I am going to get a specific instrument, or let the dentist know they can come in when they are ready.” Then I rush to the ladies room, do my business, splash my face with water, and return. I apologize for any extra time delay, and if needed explain that I am newly pregnant but all is well, and I will deliver them the best care. If available, you could always ask the assistant to help out for a minute while you recover.
There are things you can to do combat pregnancy sickness. Check with your physician for a potential nausea reducing medications or keep some type of food close by that you can snack on between patients. Mine was Cheez-its and gatorade. (The crap your teeth go through while pregnant, I will save for another day.)
Thankfully I am finally to the end of my morning sickness with baby #3 and the baby bump is coming along nicely. Stay tuned for next time when I discuss the challenges of working with extra weight and an ever growing belly. I will also discuss the ins and outs of working as a nursing mom.