Objective: To estimate absolute and relative risks of preterm delivery (PTD) and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) births among a cohort of female veterinarians in relation to selected occupational factors, including clinical practice type (CPT).
Design: Retrospective cohort survey.
Sample population: 2,997 female graduates from US veterinary colleges between 1970 and 1980.
Procedure: Relevant health and occupational data were collected through a self-administered mail questionnaire with telephone follow-up of nonrespondents. Absolute and relative risks of PTD and SGA births were estimated in relation to maternal CPT at the time of conception and exposure to 13 occupational factors. Attempts were made to control confounding by use of multiple logistic regression analyses.
Results: Absolute and relative risks of PTD were highest for veterinarians employed in exclusively equine clinical practice. Although several increased, none of the CPT-specific relative risk estimates were significantly different from the null value of 1. Exposure-specific analyses indicated that occupational involvement with solvents among exclusively small animal practitioners was associated with the highest relative risk of PTD. A small number of SGA births limited information that could be obtained from these analyses. Overall absolute risks of PTD and SGA births among cohort members were much lower in comparison with the general female population.
Clinical implications: Given the large number of women currently practicing and entering the profession of veterinary medicine, clinical tasks associated with potential reproductive hazards should be approached with heightened awareness and increased caution, especially activities that may involve exposure to solvents.