Finding out you have a bun in the oven can be the happiest and most exhilarating time in your life. One of the first issues to resolve is telling your employer and figuring out how to proceed with your employment. Be sure to tell your employer immediately and request to keep it a private matter as best as possible until you are ready to share the news with the world.
Here are some things you should know when you go through a pregnancy in the veterinary workplace.
1. Exposure to anesthetic gases, radiation, hazardous chemicals, zoonotic or infectious diseases
When it comes to anesthetic gases, there are no firm and conclusive results regarding fetal abnormalities and exposure to the gases, although there are many studies to suggest that it does happen. It is therefore recommended for soon to be moms to avoid masking down patients, recovering patients and any other procedures where waste gas is expelled.
Next, radiation exposure is a concern for developing fetuses. The best option is to avoid radiation exposure altogether including from x-ray machines, dental x-ray units, I131 treatments in hyperthyroid cats and fluoroscopy machines. The best practice is to review your exposure history and make sure you always wear your radiation badge if you must participate in taking x-rays.
Chemical exposure should also be of concern. Be careful when handling certain medications and be sure to stay away from chemotherapeutic drugs, hormones, pesticides, etc.
Whether you are pregnant or not, it is important to take extra precaution around zoonotic or infectious diseases. These may include leptospirosis, rabies, tick-borne diseases, etc. The most common disease that concerns pregnant women is toxoplasmosis. The best option is to avoid any exposure to cat feces, although the most common way to contract toxoplasmosis is through raw meat. More information on toxoplasmosis can be found here.
2. Accommodations and Duties
It is important to speak with your doctor regarding your pregnancy and your occupation. Since every pregnancy is different, it is hard to know your exact limitations until you are evaluated. Make sure you have your doctor's orders in writing and documented with your employer.
Be aware that you may be able to perform most of your duties now, but the further along you get into your pregnancy the more it may be difficult to lift, stand, and restrain. Remember, pregnancy is temporary and before you know it, you will back to your full capabilities.
Your employer does not have the right to switch your job duties just based on your pregnancy status, but you should have a conversation with them regarding the next 9 months of your pregnancy. Remember to always get your requests in writing.
You can request a job transfer, but your employer is not obligated to grant your request. There must be a position available that you are qualified for with a similar pay rate.
3. Addressing your co-workers
While it is not mandatory to have your co-workers sign off in agreement on your restrictions and limitations while pregnant, it is proper to be gracious to the ones picking up any of your slack. It is ok to ask for help and have them recover patients, box down a cat, or take more x-rays.
It is also polite to tell them how much you appreciate their extra effort and maybe even bring in a sweet treat for them. We all could use an extra "good job" or simple "Thank you, I appreciate your help."
4. Maternity Leave
It is actually very rare to deliver your baby on their exact due date, which makes preparing for maternity leave very difficult. Again, consult with your employer on your maternity leave plans, knowing full well that those could go out the door very quickly. At least have an idea of the amount of maternity leave you would like to take.
If you are now pregnant, congratulations on your bundle of joy. Working through a pregnancy in the veterinary workplace can be a little more difficult than with most other jobs, but you should always stay safe and be aware of your limitations. We hope you have a healthy and happy 9 months!
Are there other precautions you took to stay safe during your pregnancy?