Is it Safe to Work as a Pharmacy Technician While Pregnant?

Pregnant pharmacy technician

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Finding out you’re pregnant is huge. You’re growing a whole new human being!

But between finding an obstetrician and searching for the perfect name for your upcoming bundle of joy, things can quickly become overwhelming.

Of course, you want to do what’s best for the baby that you’re growing. I mean, that’s why you’re taking your prenatal vitamins and skipping Friday night cocktail hour, right?

But what about your job? 

Sure your career is satisfying and you need both the money and health benefits it brings… 

But is it safe to work as a pharmacy technician while pregnant or does it pose a risk to your developing bub? 

Let’s find out:

Is it Safe to Handle Drugs While Pregnant?

Now, if you’re pregnant, you probably know that there are a lot of drugs you shouldn’t take. And it’s not just prescription drugs that are off-limits Even ibuprofen and aspirin are advised against!

But does that mean that you can’t handle medicine at work? 

I mean, sure, taking medication yourself can be problematic. But is it really such a big deal to touch drugs?

Well, yes. Unfortunately, there are some drugs that are dangerous to handle during pregnancy, even if you don’t put them anywhere near your mouth. 

Luckily, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers clear guidance on which medicines pose a risk to pregnant women, and how this risk can best be mitigated.

So, which drugs should you be aware of?

Well, NIOSH splits its list of hazardous drugs into three groups. 

So, while NIOSH tells us that drugs recorded in groups 1 and 2 may be risky to some pregnant women, it is group 3 that we should be most concerned about.

Here is the 2016 NIOSH list of group 3 drugs:

acitretinalitretinoinambrisentanbosentancabergolinecetrorelixchoriogonadotropin
clomipheneclonazepamcolchicinedinoprostonedronedaronedutasteride eslicarbazepine
ergonovinefinasteridefluconazoleganirelixgonadotropinicatibantlomitapide
macitentanmentropinsmethyltestosteronemifepristonemisoprostolnafarelinoxytocin
pamidronateparoxetinepasireotidepentetate calcium trisodium peginesatideplerixaforribavirin
riociguattelavancintemazepamtestosteronetopiramatetretinoinulipristal
valproatevigabatrinvoriconazolewarfarinziprasidonezoledronic acidzonisamide

So, how can you ensure that you’re protected from dangerous drugs at work?

Well, firstly, it is a good idea to inform your OB about your job role. They know your individual circumstances and are best placed to advise you on how to stay healthy during your pregnancy.

It is also a good idea to tell your manager about your pregnancy as quickly as possible. 

And look, we get it, sharing news of your pregnancy is a big deal and many people prefer to wait until after the first scan to announce it to the world. But telling your boss gives them the opportunity to conduct a risk assessment to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to keep you and your bump safe. 

Depending on the size of your pharmacy, they may even be able to assign you work that doesn’t involve handling hazardous drugs at all.

So, schedule a meeting and let your manager know that you’re expecting. You can always ask them to keep it on the down-low until you are ready to share your news with your team.

Now, if a change of duty isn’t possible, NIOSH advises that appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) should be worn by anyone handling hazardous drugs. A full breakdown of what PPE should be worn depending on circumstance can be found in table 5 here.

By following the NIOSH recommendations on PPE, you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to keep your baby safe from the drugs at work.

But what about the stress of being on your feet all day?

How to Deal with the Physical Stress of being a Pharmacy Tech while Pregnant

Handling drugs isn’t the only concern pregnant pharmacy technicians report. There’s also the physical toll of being on your feet all day to worry about. 

Not to mention how morning sickness and tiredness can affect productivity (You are growing an actual human baby after all!).

But try not to worry. There are things you can do to help yourself cope:

Ask your employer for modifications that will make your job easier.

Every pregnant person is different. Some breeze through their entire pregnancy with barely a twinge. Others, like me, for example, find themselves puking their guts up multiple times a day.

And because everyone is different, the modifications they need are different too. Some people would benefit from extra breaks, others an amended start and finish time. Some people might even find that access to a chair is enough to ease the worst of their symptoms.

But does your employer have to listen to your request for modifications?

Well, while pregnancy itself isn’t classified as a disability under the ADA,  if you’re suffering from pregnancy-related complications (such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, or anemia), you may still be protected by disability discrimination laws. 

So, don’t be afraid to speak up if you need help. You might find it useful to speak to your OB for advice on what modifications to ask for.

Of course, there are some modifications you can make yourself:

Try a belly band

As your baby grows, so does your belly. And this can put a lot of extra strain on your back.

Luckily, there is a nifty little accessory you can try that offers some much-needed support. Belly bands, also known as pregnancy support belts, are stretchy pieces of fabric that wrap around the abdomen, reducing hip and back pain in many women.

So, what else can you do?

Get enough rest

OK, as lovely as it would be to spend your entire pregnancy relaxing, that’s just not possible for most of us.

But getting enough rest is important for pregnant women. So, once you’re finished work for the day, try putting your feet up and prioritize those early nights.

Talk about your day

For the majority of pharmacy technicians, dealing with the public is a big part of the working day. And not only does that mean dealing with the usual rude customers experienced by pretty much everyone who has ever worked in retail. It also means handing out prescriptions to people who are facing illness and/or pain.

This can take its toll on anyone, never mind someone who is also experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy.

So, make sure that you talk through any work stress with someone you trust. 

OK, we’ve looked at the risks of working as a pharmacy technician while pregnant. And we’ve looked at ways to mitigate the risk. Where does that leave us?

The Take-Away

Based on the information provided by NIOSH, it is safe to work as a pharmacy technician while pregnant, providing you follow safe working practices.

However, it is important to discuss your individual circumstances with your OB.

Now, being pregnant doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about passing your exams. And luckily, our online guide takes all the stress out of studying.

Try our free practice test here to check just how prepared you are!

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

Michelle is Medical Hero's in-house expert on the PTCB exam and pharmacy technician careers.