“Oh Mylanta,” I’m Pregnant During My Pharmacy Residency: A pharmacist’s experience with surviving residency and pregnancy

By Sonia Oskouei posted 12-29-2014 08:33


    First, a bit about me. Hi, I am a recovering type-A pharmacist. I have been invested in a future in pharmacy since I was a kid—all kids are into prescription pharmaceuticals, right? For me, this fascination began with how a small pill can alter the body’s physiology so drastically, and I am still in awe of this today. I am lucky to have found my life’s interest early on, and considering my life’s goals, I have been able to navigate within a narrow trajectory without diverting course. That is, until one fateful day.

    In addition to realizing my career goals early on, I have always had a passion for leadership. I find that leading others is one of the most rewarding and humbling opportunities we can experience. As a pharmacy student, this led me to a concentration in management and later on, to my passion for pharmacy administration. After graduation I applied to all the Health-System Pharmacy Administration residencies that interested me most, attended ASHP’s Midyear Conference, traveled to various interviews, and participated in the “match” program. After months of hoping and praying for the opportunity to pursue my goals, I found out I matched with my top-ranked program. I was on cloud nine.

My PGY1 experience was going well and I was learning more than I could have anticipated. I even committed to the PGY2 Health System Pharmacy Administration program within the same health system. With only three months left in my PGY1, I slowly started to recognize some changes in my appetite. I sat down to lunch one day and devoured two twelve-inch subs—one after the other. I considered the enormity of eating 24 inches of deli meat and bread and thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t just eating for one…maybe I was eating for two. I decided to take a pregnancy test. I think you know where this is going.

You guessed it, my lunch break pregnancy test was positive. If you can, imagine trying to perform pharmacokinetics during a cardiac critical care rotation after realizing your whole world just changed. The rest of that day and later that night, my mind ran wild. As a very goal-orientated individual, I was always very comfortable on a straight path to achieving my long-term goals; then that path detoured all of a sudden. Would I have to quit my residency? Will I lose my opportunity to do a PGY2? How will I attend all the doctor’s visits? What will happen when I take maternity leave? Are there maternity leave benefits? I can’t be the first person to get pregnant during a pharmacy residency, can I?

I kept this discovery a secret, sharing only with my husband, for most of the first trimester. But once week eight hit, the “morning sickness” began… and it was bad. To be frank, the term “morning sickness” did not do it justice. I was nauseated and vomiting throughout the day. I finally had to reveal my pregnancy to my coworkers and preceptors as I felt that it started to disturb my work. I kept hoping the vomiting would go away after the first trimester, as it does for many women, but that was not the case for me. Weeks went by and my sickness continued to get worse. I tried every trick in the book: saltine crackers in the morning before getting out of bed, “Preggie Pops,” sour candies, peppermint, ginger tea, ginger candy, ginger anything! Nothing helped. I even tried all the medications- ondansetron, promethazine, doxylamine with vitamin B6, but still nothing improved my symptoms. I reached the point were I simply could not work anymore. I had a conversation with my residency director and decided it was best to take a leave of absence. To this day, I am so thankful for all the support, empathy, and kindness I received from all my preceptors. Not all women have such a supportive group of colleagues (though every woman should!).

It turned out I was part of the “lucky” 5% of women who has sickness their entire pregnancy. At times, I wondered if I would ever be able to return to my residency. My mother and husband (my cheerleaders) would remind me of how hard I worked to get to where I was and that the extreme sickness was just temporary. I would check-in with our residency director every couple of weeks to provide updates on my status. Just to speak to how highly I think of my residency program, my director never made me feel pressured or stressed about staying home. She would always remind me that my health and the baby’s health were the priority. After a couple months off from work, my sickness started a pattern similar to the morning sickness we’ve all heard about. Finally, I felt I was able to return to work.

I worked until the week my daughter was born. I decided to take as much time off as possible after she was born. I loved every sleep-deprived minute with her. I am beyond fortunate to have my mother watching my daughter during the workdays as I continue to complete my PGY2 residency. Jokingly, I call myself the “lifelong resident” as my experience has extended over a much longer period of time than the average resident; but the truth is that I am forever grateful for this opportunity and value the experience beyond words.

My advice to any woman who is experiencing pregnancy during their residency is to keep the end in mind and plan ahead. Know that all your hard work, stamina, and determination will pay off. Maintain your support system, and when you are feeling weak and tired, reflect on all your accomplishments thus far. On tough days I would just place my hand on my belly and say, “we got this.” If you start to notice your lack of energy keeps you from working on projects at home after rotations, ask for extensions on deadlines. The key is to always maintain open communication with your preceptors. Keep in mind your residency is built on the foundation of your success. Your preceptors are your greatest advocates and work hard in order for you to gain the best learning experience. Try to always stay positive.

I will never forget a conversation I had with one of my co-residents when I revealed my pregnancy to him. We were having a deep conversation (thank goodness for great co-residents), and I shared that I had this underlying concern that people would possibly see me in a different light now that I was pregnant. I was trying to navigate this new world of pregnancy and was afraid I would no longer be seen as this driven, hard-working, future leader, but rather as just “pregnant,” or even worse, as disengaged. My co-resident simply looked me in the eye and said, “I think it makes you even stronger.” From that point on, my worry turned into genuine pride.

Of course every pregnancy is different. Many have better or more difficult experiences than I did, but the key is to always take it one day at a time. My mentor recently said to me, “you survived your pregnancy with humor and strength.” At the end of the day, the perseverance and strength that it took to earn your PharmD will carry you through motherhood and the rest of your pharmacy career.  Decisions will be made based on what is best for you and your baby. My final advice is to stay strong, take care of you, enjoy the incredible journey of making a human being, and take advantage of buying two trays of food in the cafeteria without judgment. We all know that moms can provide a special kind of care; so having the additional credential is only an advantage as a healthcare professional.


#Precepting #ClinicalSpecialistsandScientists #Residency #ResidencyProgramDirector #InpatientCarePractitioner #PharmacyPracticeManagers #Professionalism #Careers #Advocacy #NewPractitioners #Leadership #ExperientialEducation #MedicationSafetyOfficers #AmbulatoryCarePractitioners #Resident #Mentorship #ASHPStaff #PharmacyStudents



03-17-2015 13:55

Congratulations! I hope you are feeling well! Yes, I remember feeling the same way... it's almost as if you don't want to appear any less efficient to your peers. The most fitting phrase is, "well- that's life!" My experience with my organization has taught me that our profession is very supportive of expecting parents. The important part is to always feel encouraged that your health is most important and that your hardwork continues to be valued by the pharmacy team.

12-30-2014 21:33

Thanks for the encouragement! I am no longer a resident, but I am 16 weeks pregnant and I have been thinking about how I want to keep working hard as a new staff pharmacist throughout my pregnancy.