Shift work tied to pregnancy and fertility issues

Being pregnant doesn't mean that you have to give up your job. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, two-thirds of women who had their first child between the years of 2001 and 2003 worked throughout their pregnancy, compared to 44 percent who had a child for the first time between 1961 and 1965. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't reexamine your job once you become pregnant, to make sure that your working environment is a healthy place for you and your developing baby. 

This is because certain jobs and work schedules may increase the risk of pregnancy complications. For example, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton found that shift work may increase the risk of pregnancy issues and poor fertility in women. 

Upsetting the internal clock
Unlike having a traditional nine-to-five job, having a shift position can result in people having to work during the evening hours when they would normally be sleeping. Staying awake and working at night may impact the body's circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that dictates when people are supposed to be asleep and when they should be awake. Past studies have found that shift work could increase the risk of experiencing a number of health problems, such as obesity and heart disease. Now, researchers have found a connection between this type of work and pregnancy complications

To come to their conclusions, researchers examined data on more than 119,000 women. They discovered that women who worked shift jobs had an 80 percent increased risk of having difficulty conceiving than those who worked traditional hours. Furthermore, women who worked only night hours were found to have a higher risk of miscarriage than those who worked during the day. 

Researcher Linden Stocker, M.D., explained that this study does not prove that shift work causes pregnancy complications or infertility, but it does show an association that people should take note of. 

"If our results are confirmed by other studies, there may be implications for shift workers and their reproductive plans. More friendly shift patterns with less impact on circadian rhythm could be adopted where practical - although the optimal shift pattern required to maximize reproductive potential is yet to be established," said Stocker. 

She added that it's also important to remember that shift work comes with a number of other potential health issues. 

"Shift workers adopt poor sleep hygiene, suffer sleep deprivation and develop activity levels that are out-of-sync with their body clock," said Stocker. 

Working while pregnant
If you work a shift job, these findings may encourage you to ask if you can take on the day shift rather than work at night. 

Past studies have found that most pregnant women can perform their jobs without worrying about harming their baby, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious. For example, the Mayo Clinic stressed that while at work during your pregnancy, you should eat healthy snacks often throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and make sure your baby is getting the nutrition he or she needs. Consider keeping some veggies, crackers and hummus around your workplace so you don't have to worry about being hungry throughout the day. 

Also, take breaks when you need them. Your coworkers will understand that your body is working overtime to care for both you and your baby, and that means that you may have to take a few minutes every hour or so to relax and regroup. Be honest with other people in your workplace about how you're feeling, and you may be surprised at how understanding everyone is. 

Did you work during your pregnancy? Do you have any tips for other working pregnant women? Leave them here!