Pregnant women shouldn’t work more than 40 hours a week, study shows

Pregnant women shouldn’t work more than 40 hours a week, study shows

By Kristelle Bechayda

Do you find yourself assigned in the night shift or clocking in more hours even if you’re pregnant? This recent study might want to make you rethink your work schedule.

According to the study that was published on the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG), these work set-ups might increase a pregnant woman’s chances of having a miscarriage or preterm delivery.

How irregular work hours affect a woman’s pregnancy

The study showed that pregnant women who work night shifts were 21 percent more likely to have preterm deliveries and 23 percent more likely to have miscarriages compared to women who worked day jobs.

To add, working for more than 40 hours a week could also lead to a 38 percent higher risk of miscarriages and a 21 percent higher risk of preterm deliveries than working less. Long hours were also tied to a 43 percent higher risk of underweight babies and a 16 percent higher chance that infants would be small for their gestational age.

On the other hand, pregnant women who work rotating shifts were 13 percent more likely to have a preterm delivery and 18 percent higher chances of having an undersized baby. The analysis also showed have 19 percent more chances of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy, and 75 percent more likely to develop preeclamsia.

The study noted that working long hours or during night shifts don’t only interrupt a pregnant woman’s sleeping and eating patterns, but also her hormones and other physiological processes.

“During night shift work, the day is flipped, and over time this is thought to trigger hormonal adaptations that may influence how the baby grows and the timing of delivery,” explained the study’s senior author, Margie Davenport from the University of Alberta. “And working long hours may increase stress hormones that could influence the risk of preterm labor.”

What to do if you can’t change your work schedule

If working for less than 40 hours a week is not possible, Davenport suggested to focus on maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle outside of work. By exercising, having sufficient sleep, and taking nutritious meals is already enough to improve a pregnant woman’s prenatal health.

Audrey Gaskins from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta added that pregnant women should be aware of the risks being posed by working long hours, and night and rotating shifts and if possible, change their schedule.

“In the absence of being able to change one’s work characteristics, women should focus on maintaining good sleep hygiene and keeping their stress levels in check,” Gaskins said. “These are two of the main pathways that are implicated when working shifts, long hours or nights.”

Story from Reuters.