Congratulations! You have a baby on the way. Teaching while pregnant, however, does come with some challenges. Here’s tips for pregnant teachers on how to survive the next few months from your colleagues who have been there!
Full disclosure – although I have two children, I never experienced the joys of teaching while pregnant. For that I am pretty thankful, knowing how the choice of baby names in particular starts to dramatically narrow the more years you’ve been in the classroom.
The name Tom, for example, still causes an involuntary shiver.
Instead I got into teaching when my youngest was 2. However, I do happen to be friends with many women who survived teaching while pregnant and they were more than happy to share their tips with you.
Note that as New Zealanders, our school year, classroom arrangements and other rights may be different from yours. If you have any thing you need clarifying, just ask in the comments!
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pregnancy.
When’s the best time to have a baby when you’re a teacher?
Any teacher who has wanted to start to to expand their family will have wondered about how to time their pregnancy so as to cause minimum disruption to their classes. Now many of us know that you can’t exactly plan these things – the best you can do is start trying for baby and hope for the best.
That aside, there’s definitely pluses for having babies at certain times of the year if you’re a teacher.
In addition to thinking short term with due dates, the “best time” can also be a longer time frame when thinking about goals for their career and how they will manage their job once they have a family.
What’s the best time of the year to have a baby if you’re a teacher?
If you’ve made the decision to have a baby, you’ll know the next decision is when to start trying.
Teachers by nature worry about the impact of their decisions on their students (just ask any teacher how they feel about taking a sick day to prove this point!) – and pregnancy is no exception.
The school year in New Zealand goes from the end of January to early or mid December, with four terms of approximately 10 weeks each – letting us enjoy a 6 week summer holiday.
Senior students (in their last 3 years of high school) also finish school approximately 6 weeks early to study for and sit their examinations.
The structure of a school year has a significant influence on the pregnancy experience.
Many teachers feel it works best to get pregnant near the beginning of the school year. As Alana B says, “Get pregnant January or February, then baby is born in September / October when it is becoming warmer so you’re not pregnant in the heat of summer.“
Heidi agrees, suggesting that “It’s best to get pregnant in March, then you can have a summer baby and finish up a full teaching year.”
Getting pregnant near the beginning of the school year also means that “you are due just when senior students leave or due at the end of Term 4,” as Larissa points out.
Having your baby at the end of the school year can also mean more time with your new addition. As Lisa says, you should try and get pregnant at the “end of Term 1 or beginning of Term 2. You can work the year – have summer holidays then take the year of a couple of terms off!”
Ava wishes she had got pregnant a little later in the school year. “My colleague got pregnant at the start of Term 2 which meant she had her 3rd trimester over the holidays and a reduced load naturally at the end of the year.
That same year I got pregnant in February and had bubba in November. I was effectively pregnant for the whole freaking year!”
Of course, how long you want to take for maternity leave will also play into this decision. Laura suggests that you “give birth in August or earlier depending on how long you want off. It’s easier to start at the beginning of year. I had rest of year off with my first two which was better than starting in June.“
Some times it’s easier to have your family in one go when you’re already on leave. Amelia got pregnant for the first time while she was on study leave and got pregnant again when she was still on maternity leave.
Both Sarah N and Vanessa wonder if there is any good time to have a baby: “I’ve been due mid year and end of year and I don’t think there is an easy time to be honest. In terms of the students, probably the end of the year to give birth. – Sarah N.
Never. – Vanessa.
Summing up: Trying to plan your pregnancy so you finish near the end of the school year and thus cause minimal disruption to your students is often the ideal. It also means you escape being nine months pregnant in the heat of summer.
What’s the best time in your career to have a baby if you’re a teacher?
So many factors go into deciding when to have a baby. This includes thinking about the impact time off will have on our career and how our goals and priorities might shift.
In New Zealand it takes two years to become a fully registered teacher, therefore Jayne and Karyn think this should be achieved first – specifically that you should be “comfortable in your teaching space i.e been at the school for a couple of years,” according to Jayne.
Karyn adds, “Get your registration first – but I honestly think there is no good time. There could always be a reason to not do it so you just make it work when you do.”
Amy has a similar point of view: “I think the best time to get pregnant is after you are established, and before you start kicking goals…. so once you are confident teaching (so at least three years) and before you start moving up the management chain.
It’s also important to remember that it might be really hard to fall pregnant. I started trying at the start of my third year teaching when I was nearly 24, and it took nearly 18 months.”
Liz also suggests waiting until “you’ve been teaching long enough [that you] have resources up your sleeve.”
Summing up: Having a baby will have an impact on your career and potentially slow down promotions and progress for a while as you learn to manage work and home. It’s advisable to have a baby once you’ve become fully registered, and can also be helpful to do so before you start advancing into management positions (if that’s what you want). However the bottom line is it’s your life. so choose what works for you.
How do you cope with morning sickness when you’re a teacher?
One of the biggest concerns for newly pregnant teachers is around morning sickness, or more importantly, how they’ll deal with it when they’re in the classroom being watched by many pairs of eyes.
And it’s a totally valid concern – some 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness, ranging from mild queasy feelings through to hyperemesis gravidarum (source).
For pregnant teachers who err more on the “mild queasy” side, food is your friend – little and often.
Alana, who managed to get through her two pregnancies relatively unscathed, recommends snacking on small items like “a handful of nuts, some fruit or crackers.”
Alana B agrees that keeping plain crackers on hand is a must, adding that sipping ice water throughout the day helped her get through.
What’s most important is not to leave too much time between meals – “that made it so much worse,” says Sarah D.
But since we know a break for morning tea or a full lunch break is never guaranteed, keeping a steady supply of small snacks in your desk is a great idea.
As well as the above, both Karyn and Vanessa recommend ginger beer and ginger nuts.
Larissa also had some tips. “I wasn’t hit too badly with morning sickness. But I did drink a lot of water and chew a lot of gum (which usually I am totally against in my class!). I also carried a lemon with me to sniff when needed. Making sure my classroom was ice cold and full of fresh air always was the only thing to combat it!”
However for some teachers “morning” sickness is a total misnomer.
Amelia, who also has three children ( including one set of twins), says, “I had terrible nausea with number 1. I would eat dry crackers in class when a wave of nausea hit. I went for walks at break times – keeping moving, deep breathing and not having to have conversations with people staved off the nausea for a bit.
For both pregnancies, I avoided the staff room as the smells of coffee and food would make me want to vomit.
With my twin pregnancy, I vomited with extraordinary force. I ended up with petichiae (burst capillaries) around my eyes!
I would constantly walk around the classroom and take deep breaths to keep the nausea at bay, and then as soon as the bell rang, I would rush to my car, drive quickly to my house around the corner and throw up at home.
Sometimes, I didn’t make it inside.
Being my second pregnancy, I had a weak pelvic floor and, combined with extraordinary force of vomiting, I was more worried about peeing myself in front of students than the actually vomiting!”
Amy also had a tough time, as she was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which saw her take maternity leave much earlier than she’s initially planned. “It was really really tough. I told my colleagues and classes very early. I was only 10 weeks or so but I had to as I would be throwing up all the time and often. I had a small container I carried with me and would leave lessons when I had to.
It was hard for me, but I had to accept help. I had to let myself be told to stop work at 32 weeks after being hospitalized for hyperemesis again.”
There’s no doubt that being in close proximity to toilets or a workroom where you can be sick in private is also of huge benefit.
If morning sickness is a significant issue, talk to the timetabler at your school to see if you can be moved to a more convenient location.
Failing that, have a buddy nearby who is able to step into your class if need be, or a decent sized rubbish bin in your classroom!
Summing up: Keep small snacks like crackers, and drinks like ginger beer, close to hand at all times and don’t let yourself get an empty stomach. Have a buddy nearby, in case you need to leave the room in a hurry or need a desk to lay your head on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or let people know what you’re going through.
How do you manage your basic needs when you’re a pregnant teacher?
Any teacher, pregnant or not, can find keeping hydrated, going to the bathroom and (as I mentioned before) eating regularly challenging.
We don’t drink enough water because then we have to go to the bathroom and we can’t just abandon our class.
We miss lunch time because we’re running meetings, or giving students extra tutoring, or replying to a parent’s email.
All in all, we’re not always that good at taking care of ourselves.
However if you’re teaching while pregnant then you have to take care of these basic needs. Your baby or babies are depending on it!
For that reason, it’s important to prioritize those physiological needs. Amy says how she “let my body lead me- so would drink water when I needed to, and go to the toilet when I needed to. I think possibly teaching high school is different as we can leave the students and they will be safe.”
Larissa agrees: “I just did what I needed to. Luckily my classroom was close to the staffroom for drink refills and toilet breaks. I would often have to snack to keep myself from feeling sick. I had almonds and such in my drawer in my classroom.”
This is where having a toilet close to your classroom can be invaluable. Zani, Karyn and Liz all commented on how much easier this made it for them. Jayne too, though she admitted that, “I didn’t ever have the great need to go to the toilet but definitely abandoned my classes to be sick. The kids were really understanding and were happy to have me even when I disappeared over having relievers. They appreciated the effort I was putting in.”
Almost all teacher had a water bottle in their classroom and would eat regularly at break times or even during class if need be.
The attitude of other staff and students could be key here. As Ange says, “My school and students were very kind and supportive, making it easy.”
Heidi agreed saying, “I ate all the time, without shame in front of my classes and let them do the same!”
Lisa got help from support staff. “As a science teacher, it was really hard. As I worked right up until due date I used to email the science technician and she would sit in my class so I could waddle to the loo.”
Summing up: Your needs come first, and keeping water on tap and a toilet close by is key to getting through. Ask other staff for help if you need it, or trust your students to behave if you need to leave briefly.
How do you manage prenatal appointments when you’re teaching?
Unlike many people with 9-5 jobs, it can be extremely difficult to take time off for appointments during the working day when you’re a teacher.
When you’re pregnant and teaching, you’ll feel this more than most as your appointments increase the closer you get to your due date. Scheduling can become a nightmare.
This is where the support from your school is so important. Without it, you may need to take leave without pay if you can’t get your appointments at a time that works for you.
Amy says, “I would ask for early morning appointments or afterschool. If I had to, I would ask permission from my Head of Department and principal to use a non-contact. They allowed me and I was very thankful to them.”
Sarah N had a similar experience: “The first, I managed to do after school hours but also my principal at the time allowed me to start late on the day my non contact was 1st period which was a life saver.”
Alana W also had a supportive school, where they “granted leave if needed. However I had most appointments at 4.30 where either I would go by myself or my husband would finish work early and join me. Alternatively they would be at 8.30am so I would only miss 1-2 classes. I had the freedom to work around important classes.”
High school teachers that could use non contacts felt very lucky, especially if they were first period. Lana would book in her scans for early morning slots on a day that she wasn’t teaching period one, but would ensure her midwife appointment was for 5pm, long after the end of the school day.
Zani, however, had to take sick leave for half a day when she needed to see the doctor, as did Alana B.
If you live in a different town from your school, this can complicate things.
Because Vanessa was in this situation, her appointments required that she take the whole day off. She felt that “management were not happy and were vocal about it but understood that needs must.”
Ava also lived over an hour from work. This meant she took Wednesdays off each week during her first trimester and her third trimester. In her first trimester this was leave without pay. Later she was eligible to use sick leave.
Although Rachel worked and lived in the same town, her midwife didn’t which meant she had to wait until school holidays to have appointments when it wasn’t possible to leave school early.
Bear a thought too if you need to do fertility treatments. Larissa comments that unlike her regular appointments, “that was a very hard juggle with teaching. I needed a lot of last minute class cover and had appointments where I had no control over the time or date. I had to let school know vaguely what was happening so they were aware of the situation.”
Summing up: Pregnant teachers do not have a huge amount of flexibility during the school day, but with accommodating employers, it’s possible to start late or leave early in order to fit in appointments. Failing that, using sick leave or other leave entitlements is an option.
How do you tell your students that you’re pregnant?
Ah, the age old question of letting people know when you’re having a baby.
Add in the fact that many younger children, or even teens, aren’t always the most tactful, and it’s no wonder many teachers wonder whether to make a big announcement, or simply to have the students wonder if they’re getting a little overweight.
Heidi did a combination of the two. “With my first, I made it a big announcement. They proceeded to ask me who the father was when he taught in the same school! That’s what you get from teaching in a boys only school. With my 2nd, I left it as long as possible until they eventually worked up the courage to ask me!”
Due to Amy’s hyperemesis, she had to tell her students at around 10 weeks.
Ange’s students also guessed, “with how green I was looking and the frequent trips to the loo.”
Larissa announced her pregnancy cryptically to her whole class, who were very excited, as she had taught them for a long time. “I had surprise baby showers thrown for me when I left and lots of cute gifts and activities. They were very into the whole thing….I was not into the belly touching and all the questions though.”
Sarah D didn’t tell her students for a while, “but then they started to look at me strangely as I started to show so eventually they got the courage up to ask me. It was funny because at first I pretended to be shocked like no of course not and the girl was freaked out. But we had a good laugh.”
Many of the other teachers waited until it was fairly obvious, like Liz, who told her classes when she was five months pregnant.
However a couple, like Karyn and Alana W, had the cat let out of the bag by colleagues, who eithe let something slip, or said something in convers
Most students were very excited for the teacher but also wanted reassurance on how it would affect their learning.
Summing up: Deciding when to telling your students you’re having a baby is often driven by circumstance. If you’re suffering from morning sickness, it may have to be sooner rather than later. However there’s nothing wrong with waiting until a few brave students ask!
What advice would you give your first-time pregnant self?
Too much advice can make you feel conflicted, overwhelmed and anxious, but what if you could go back and give your first-time pregnant self some advice?
I bet you that would be worth listening to!
Here’s what these moms wished they could have told themselves about managing pregnancy and teaching:
Try not to stress, always carry water a change of clothes and a plastic container just in case. – Alana B.
Be planned ahead of time. We were lucky that both pregnancies were planned and one hit wonders so it all fitted into place. But take it easier, eat less, and continue to stay fit. – Alana W.
Oh boy. You are doing the best you can. You don’t know this, but it is about to get a whole lot worse. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself some time to rest, to ‘be’. – Amy.
Listen to your body, be honest with yourself and others as to how you’re feeling. Keep a sense of humor! – Ange.
Your body can do this. It’s okay to not function at 200% at work anymore – you have new priorities.
Get things in writing, and if you can’t then it’s likely it won’t happen so don’t count on it.
Saying NO is okay.
The school existed for x years before you came and it will continue without you. Step away if you need to.
Embrace the support, be open with people. Don’t feel ashamed or feel weaker than others – every pregnancy is different – Ava.
You’re doing a great job juggling pregnancy and teaching, and you are going to be a fabulous parent juggling teaching and motherhood. – Heidi.
Look after yourself. Don’t expect you can do everything the way you did before. Utilize time when you feel good to try and get ahead. – Jayne.
Don’t follow my example and refuse to stop for anything! Look after yourself. It’s okay to take time if you need it and it’s also okay to be a bit slower.
Don’t come back until you’re ready because it is a shift in balancing it all.
Also, as someone who has suffered miscarriages in the middle of the school day, it’s good to have a confidante who knows you’re pregnant from the start but who you also know can keep their mouth shut. This gives you a place and a person to go if you need time out because of morning sickness or if something really badly goes wrong. Everyone needs a support system! – Karyn.
Look after yourself first and foremost. Rest and sit down when you need to. Give yourself more time then you think you need to when choosing your leaving date – or else you potentially will end up with no down time before baby’s arrival. – Larissa.
Take longer maternity leave – the kids will be okay without you! – Lisa.
Take time off when you need to and don’t work until 8th month. – Liz.
Just go with the flow – there are things you can control and things you can’t. This is a special time in your life so enjoy it. If you need a day off then take one. – Rachel.
Slow down. No one expects you to be superwoman. Your job will still be there when you come back. Take time to cherish your pregnancy and look after yourself. – Sarah D.
You come first. The school will not fall over with out you. – Sarah N.
Be kind to yourself. Say no when people ask to much of you or to do extra jobs- and check with the union what allowances you are entitled to. – Vanessa.
Don’t try to do it all! I’m pretty sure pushing myself and taking no days off in the third trimester lead to pre-eclampsia. (Obviously there is no proof…but the day I stopped working, I just ballooned.) – Zani.
Final tips for pregnant teachers
Teaching can be a stressful and demanding job at the best of times. Add pregnancy into the mix, and you’re having to cope with morning sickness, managing appointments around classes, and telling the students you’re having a baby.
Many teachers have worked through their pregnancies and got through using some basic strategies. These tips for pregnant teachers give you their best advice, so you can relax and enjoy this special time in your life.