Practicing Veterinary Medicine While Pregnant

Emily Singler, VMD, University of Arizona , Emily Singler Veterinary Consulting, Orlando, Florida

ArticleLast Updated March 20243 min read
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Dear Second Opinion,

I’m newly pregnant, and although I’m excited for this next chapter in my personal life, I’m also anxious about how it will affect my professional life. I’ve been experiencing significant nausea and fatigue that make me late to work, and I’ve already had to take several sick days.

Our clinic, like many, is short staffed and overbooked, and I often help restrain patients and skip lunch for urgent appointments. Continuing to work this way doesn’t feel safe or healthy, but I don’t see how it can be avoided.

I’ve been at my current clinic for a year, and I’ve built a solid base of long-term patients with chronic conditions that I’ve worked hard to manage. I’m also heavily involved in our doctor mentorship program, which involves weekly didactic rounds and monthly wet labs. The thought of delegating these responsibilities to my colleagues while I’m on maternity leave causes my head to spin.

Do you have any advice for this anxious mom-to-be?

-Not Sure What to Expect While Expecting

Dear Not Sure What to Expect While Expecting,

Congratulations! Finding out you are going to be a parent can be exciting, but it’s also normal to feel nervous and uncertain.

Although the risks associated with long days and strenuous work are usually low, restraining patients can increase your risk for musculoskeletal strain, needlestick injuries, bites, and/or falls. Being on your feet for long periods without a break can also lead to complications and may result in more missed work.

Express your concerns to your employer, and ask for accommodations that might include increased understanding around last-minute sick days or late arrivals, a designated lunch break, and an awareness of which cases will need a substitute colleague. You can offer to take on administrative tasks (eg, approving medication refills, calling to check on patients) in exchange for another staff member doing more hands-on work. If your employer is not receptive to your requests, the clinic may not be family friendly; however, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (see Suggested Reading) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers in workplaces with >15 employees.

You may wish to discuss antinausea medication with your health care provider. Some people also use ginger or over-the-counter products for nausea relief. Rest as much as possible on your days off, and prioritize getting plenty of sleep. Staying hydrated and eating healthy snacks (if you can tolerate them) throughout the day can also help.

It's understandable to feel apprehensive about delegating tasks while on leave, but learning to let things go will be beneficial, as you will continue to do so as a working parent. Fortunately, you have time to create a plan for who will take over your mentoring tasks, manage your chronic patients, and be the contact person for pet owner concerns. Once you return to work, you should be able to regain these responsibilities slowly. Coming back from leave can also be an opportunity to take on new tasks and responsibilities (while letting go of some old ones if the time is right).

You’ve got this, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Take care, 

Emily Singler, VMD