Vet Tech work while pregnant

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
Recently found out I am pregnant. I am probably about 5-6 wks. I work as a veterinary technician. I haven't been to my first appointment yet but was wondering about my job risks.

I work mostly with dogs and cats. Daily job duties can include: cleaning cages and litter boxes, walking dogs, using strong cleaning agents and disinfectants such as bleach pine sol and roccal, sweeping & mopping, restraining animals (including dogs big and small as well as aggressive animals), taking x-rays, assisting in surgeries, dealing with bodily fluids of all types.

My employer was at first ok with my refusal to do things but I get the impression now that if I refuse it will go against me. How much of this should I refuse to do.

ANSWER

Quite a bit. You cannot clean cat cages without heavy gloves, and then only carefully, so you have zero contact with the feces (and wash your hands carefully after doing so).

Your employer should have Material Data Safety Sheets on all chemicals used by employees, and you can check each one to see what the risks for pregnancy are.

You cannot lift (or restrain) any animal that weighs more than 20#. You need to be double-shielded to be around x-rays. The surgeries are probably ok, and I assume you use Universal Precautions with the body fluids.

Any chance of getting a desk job for the duration?

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Comments

You should also avoid

You should also avoid cleaning litter boxes/cat feces. This carries a risk of contacting toxoplasmosis which can be harmful in pregnancy. The good news is, that if you have worked around litter boxes before you were pregnant, you most likely have already been exposed to this disease and have built up a natural immunity to it. But I wouldn't take that chance while you're pregnant - and you get out of cleaning litter boxes!

Re Vet Tech

I am also a Vet Tech and still working at about 7 weeks pregnant. Your employer should absolutely support your choices of what is safe and not safe for you.
Our clinic has recently had a doctor that worked all through her pregnancy, and a tech who is still working at 9 months pregnant. As far as our restrictions go, we do not allow them to restrain large or aggressive animals, or lift anything very heavy just as the midwife said. Furthermore, doctors and techs who are pregnant do not do x-rays, dental cleanings or recover patients after surgery. We try to avoid anything requiring you to be in the face of an animal that has been under anesthesia. If a pregnant tech or doctor must be in surgery then we require them to wear a mask designed to filter the gas that could leak into the air (you end up looking like Darth Vader but at least you make sure you and baby are safe).
Bottom line is you should only do what you feel is safe for you and you baby. Good luck to you and your baby!

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.