Pregnancy Problems: Women Who Lift Too Much, Work Long Hours Find It Harder to Conceive

By MV de Leon, Parent Herald August 17, 06:00 am
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A new study reveals a connection between physical labor and the chances of pregnancy among working women. The research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School shows that women exposed to jobs that require more lifting exhibited lesser chances of getting pregnant. Apart from the physical exertion, women who work for more than 40 hours within a week also found it more challenging to conceive. The study, titled "Work schedule and physical factors in relation to fecundity in nurses," was published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal.

Aiming to assess the link of work hours and physical factors with fertility, the researchers gathered data from women who admitted to trying to get pregnant from 2010 to 2014. A baseline questionnaire was sent out to the participants and the data utilized in the study were freely given by the women who self-reported their status. Every six months, the women provided details on their ongoing pregnancy attempts.

From among the 1739 participants, those who worked more than 40 hours per week exhibited 20 percent longer median duration of pregnancy attempt than those who worked from 21 to 40 hours. Meanwhile, those whose jobs require heavy lifting or constant movement, such as those who carry more than 25 pounds and move around more than 15 times daily, showed more difficulty getting pregnant compared with those who never lifted or moved heavy loads. The link between heavy lifting and difficulty in getting pregnant was more noticeable among those classified as obese or overweight women. The median age of the participants of the study was 33 years old, with 93 percent of the women identified as Caucasians.

"Our results show that heavy work, both in terms of physical strain and long hours, appears to have a detrimental impact on female nurses' ability to get pregnant," shared lead study author Audrey Gaskins, a researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston via email, according to Reuters.

However, the results of the research was impugned by Courtney Lynch, a reproductive health expert at the Ohio State University. She said via email, "If this effect is real, it is likely due to the fact that these women are having less frequent intercourse due to their work demands." Hence, Lynch believes that women who lift and move around are generally just more physically exhausted when they get off their shifts. Subsequently, their exhaustion will hinder them from engaging in sexual intercourse. Lynch points out that couple trying to conceive should have sex at least twice a week and not only during the weekends. 

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