Babies! It seems like many veterinary practices are bursting at the seams with women traversing the 10 (Yes, 10!) difficult months of pregnancy. It’s no surprise given most of the veterinary technician workforce and 80% of all new veterinary graduates are women. During my recent pregnancy, I gained valuable insight into what it takes to practice veterinary medicine while gestating.
One of the first questions I posed to my obstetrician was, “Can I still perform surgery?” Have no fear ladies, you’ll still get your chance to cut and cure! So long as your practice abides by the standards of care and has an anesthetic scavenging system (Read: The system is maintained and it doesn’t dump exhaled anesthetic on the floor), you are in the clear. Use common sense, however, and keep your face away from animals in anesthetic recovery to avoid breathing exhaled gases.
All radiation exposure should be avoided especially in the developmentally important first trimester.
Toxoplasma gondii is a feline protozoal parasite transmitted by fecal-oral contamination. Avoid handling of cat feces as much as possible and practice good hygiene. Some obstetricians will recommend having your titer checked while others don’t see the value. This one is up to you. I opted out of this test due to the low likelihood of infection and to prevent myself from unnecessary worry.
Disclaimer: I cemented and mortared a slate patio when I was 6 months pregnant and therefore may not be the best authority in this department. If your OB says no lifting, that means NO LIFTING! Nothing is worth jeopardizing your baby.
This one is tricky. If you work at a practice with a terrific technician to vet ratio, you likely won’t have to worry about lifting that portly Puggle. For most veterinarians, some lifting is required. Sometimes heavy lifting or exertion can result in mild spotting due to the rupture of friable blood vessels on the cervix. This will cause you to panic but is rarely a serious issue. Sometimes serious exertion can cause placental abruption, serious bleeding, or fainting.
Additionally, as your pregnancy advances your body produces the hormone relaxin that allows your tendons and ligaments to stretch to accommodate for your upcoming delivery. Add a shifting center of gravity to your gumby-legs and your balance falters.
Be deliberate, be cautious, and be reasonable. Light lifting and restraint shouldn’t pose a problem.
Performance of Duties
I worked until my 36th week of pregnancy and I know of vets who have worked right up until their due dates. Here are some things to consider when it comes to performing your regular duties:
- Swollen ankles, shins, knees, and hands can prevent you from standing for long periods of time and affect your dexterity.
- Your belly will get in the way of the surgical field. You’ll need to be creative to do your abdominal explore.
- You will be exhausted in your first trimester and likely exhausted toward the end of your 3rd trimester. Avoid taking extra shifts if you can.
- You can’t breathe. Bending over to tie your shoe becomes an olympic event so don’t think you’re going to be able to crawl on the floor upside-down to get that hard-to-reach FNA.
- You’ll have to pee. A lot. Be prepared to zip in to the bathroom after every appointment.
- Your sense of smell may take on superhero proportions. I never felt ill from the odors of the clinic but the smell of blood at the deli counter was enough to send me running.
- Pregnancy brain is real. You may have a harder time remembering the details of your cases at the end of the night so try to keep up with your SOAPs as you go.
- Pregnancy rage is real, too. Don’t tear the heads off of clients. It’s not a good practice builder.
Once you get that positive test result you quickly swing from excited to worried. What if I get a cat bite? What do I do with a Rabies suspect? I found myself suddenly concerned with having my hands in a dirty mouth, getting splashed with urine, and getting jumped on by patients. This is normal and just starts the life time of worry that comes once your baby is born.
Violet Mae was born 12/26/12 weighing 6lb 5oz and measuring 19 inches. We love our little addition to the VMDiva family!