Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pregnant Professionals

Bad Feminist vents some annoyance at being "viewed as circling in a hold pattern, waiting for my signal to reproduce," and all her talk about birth defects, pregnancy and the workplace reminded me of an experience I had in a class I recently took in a veterinary school.

Majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry, I didn't learn much biology in college that was on a scale larger than a cell or two. So, when I got my job at a veterinary diagnostic lab, I had never heard of a lot of the pathogens that I work with on a daily basis. Some can be dangerous to people, and some aren't, so I took a vetmed class on public health. I called it my "what not to eat in the lab" class, and now I have a much better idea of what can kill me and what can't. We talked about diseases people can get from animals (zoonoses) and the diseases animals can pass between each other.

What I thought was interesting was the fact that pregnancy-specific safety kept coming up. When you're talking about toxoplasmosis, it's a pretty obvious that the risk to pregnant women would come up, but there were several warnings about antibiotics to one pathogen interfering with birth control, or accidentally injecting yourself with a chemical causing an abortion, among other things. In other safety lectures I've had in chemistry or biology labs, the subject of pregnancy never came up. But about 70% of vet students are female (interesting, huh?), and here were the warnings. I appreciated that in a professional school, it was assumed that there would be a significant amount of people who were going to integrate their pregnancies into their professonal lives.

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