Occupational shifts and extended working hours during pregnancy can negatively affect the health of both the mother and child, according to a study. It found that pregnant women should try to avoid night shifts and long working hours as much as possible.

If it is not possible, they should focus on an active and healthy lifestyle outside of work during pregnancy, said the researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada. They explained that sufficient sleep, nutritious food and exercise are very important for improving prenatal health.

The study, titled “The impact of occupational shift work and working hours during pregnancy on health outcomes," was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology earlier this month.

The researchers analyzed data from 196,989 women from 62 smaller studies. None of the previous studies directly focussed on the impact of working hours on pregnancy. They mainly followed women working in different circumstances and tried to find out if their schedules or working hours were linked to pregnancy complications.

The researchers found that night shifts, long working hours and rotation shifts were associated with miscarriages and preterm deliveries.

The study found that women with night shifts had a 23 percent higher chance of miscarriages and 21 percent higher risk of preterm deliveries compared with women who worked day shifts.

Similarly, women who worked for more than 40 hours a week were 38 percent more likely to have miscarriages and 21 percent more likely to have preterm deliveries. Long working hours during pregnancy were also associated with underweight babies and lower gestational age.

Women who worked for long hours during pregnancy had a 43 percent higher chance of delivering underweight babies and 16 percent higher risk of lower gestational age.

The researchers also found that women who worked in rotation shifts had an 18 percent higher risk of delivering undersized babies and 13 percent more chances of preterm delivery compared to those who worked in normal shifts.

Rotating shifts for pregnant women were also associated with increased blood pressure levels. They were 75 percent more likely to develop a dangerous stage in high blood pressure called preeclampsia.

“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. And working long hours may increase stress hormones that could influence the risk of preterm labor,” lead researcher Margie Davenport told Reuters.

“If circumstances allow, avoiding shift work and long working hours (more than 40 hours/week) may improve pregnancy outcomes. However, when this isn’t possible it’s important to focus on other aspects of your life within your control that can also impact prenatal health. Focus on maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle outside of work to include exercise, sufficient sleep and nutritious food to improve prenatal health,” Davenport added.

Pregnancy Long Working Hours, Night Shifts Can Lead To Preterm Births And Miscarriage Photo: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures