Can Working Overtime During Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

Career-minded mothers-to-be have one more reason to cut back on working overtime during pregnancy: their babies’ size. New research published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that women who worked over 40 hours a week were more likely to give birth to smaller babies than women who worked 25 hours a week or less. Additionally, women whose jobs required them to be on their feet all day also had smaller babies than those who did more sedentary work. This disparity, according to WebMD, was discernible from the third trimester on.

Researchers studied 4,680 pregnant women throughout their pregnancy and at birth; of those women, half worked between 25 and 39 hours a week, while one-fourth worked over 40 hours a week. Mothers who worked on their feet gave birth to babies with heads that were 1 centimeter smaller, on average, than mothers with sedentary jobs, while mothers who frequently worked overtime had babies who weighed less at birth than their counterparts. Besides birth weight and head size, researchers didn’t find significant differences in terms of the rates of low birth weight or preterm delivery.

“We believe that optimizing the work environment is important since participation of women in the reproductive age in the workforce continues to increase,” wrote the Netherlands-based researchers. They recommend that employers begin setting limits for pregnant women during their third trimester on work-related activities like night hours, noise, standing, lifting and shift work.

Are you surprised that researchers have found links between working overtime and baby size?


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