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Mother stress risk to baby

Wed April 29th, 2009

Women with tough physical work demands face an increased risk of having small babies and premature birth, researchers warned today.

A team from University College Dublin, Ireland, examined figures on 676 women who were working at the time of their first prenatal visit, and delivered a single baby. The women gave information on their health, income, lifestyle and employment, and this was linked to their medical records relating to pregnancy.

Results showed "significant and strong associations" between high physical work demands such as 40 hours or more a week or shift work and low birthweight (less than 2,500g), and between temporary work contracts and premature birth.

Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption also led to an increased risk of low birthweight.

Researcher Dr Isabelle Niedhammer suggests that working under a temporary work contract can cause poorer working conditions - stress and anxiety due to job insecurity - which may cause premature birth.

"This study underlines that more attention should be given to women's working conditions during pregnancy," she said, "and effort should be intensified towards reducing exposure to physical work demands, shift work, and long working hours for pregnant women. Special attention should also be given to pregnant women working on temporary contracts."

The research is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Editor Professor Philip Steer commented: "It is well known that physical and psychological stress in pregnant women can lead to adverse birth outcomes. This interesting piece of research has given doctors and midwives more information about non-medical reasons for an increased incidence of low birthweight and premature delivery."

Niedhammer, I. et al. Occupational predictors of pregnancy outcomes in Irish working women in the Lifeways cohort. BJOG, Published online April 7, 2009.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | General Health | Infancy to Adolescence | Women’s Health & Gynaecology | Europe

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