Job loss link to pregnancy risk

An association between job loss and an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth has been identified in a new study published today.

Researchers, led by Dr Selin Köksal from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, UK, say the findings show the risk doubles and highlight an association. But they do not prove that losing a job is the cause of pregnancy loss.

The study, published in Human Reproduction is based on data from the Understanding Society survey of 40,000 households in the UK between 2009 and 2022, which includes 8142 pregnancies for which there was complete information.

Out of these pregnancies, 11.6% (947) ended in miscarriage, which may be an underestimate because many pregnancies do not survive beyond the first month and pregnancy loss can go undetected. There were 38 (0.5%) stillbirths.

There were 136 women who were affected by their own or their partner’s job loss and 32 (23.5%) miscarried and one (0.7%) had a still birth. Among 8006 women who were not affected by their own or their partner’s job loss, 915 (10.4%) miscarried and 37 (0.5%) had a stillbirth.

Study co-author Dr Alessandro Di Nallo, from the Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy at Bocconi University, Milan, Italy, said: “The reasons for these associations may be related to stress, reduced access to prenatal care, or changes in lifestyle.

“My previous research indicates that job loss reduces the likelihood of having children. This might be because people postpone their plans to have children under conditions of economic uncertainty, but it could also be due to other reasons.

“Stress results in a physiological response, releasing hormones that are known to increase the risk of miscarriage or premature delivery. The reduction in income following a job loss could restrict access and compliance with prenatal care, so that at-risk pregnancies are discovered late or are undetected.
In addition, the emotional discomfort of job loss could prompt unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol consumption, smoking or unhealthy eating.”

Dr Köksal said their findings uncover a potential socioeconomic – and preventable – factor behind pregnancy losses that can be addressed through effective policymaking.

“It is important to raise awareness of women’s legal rights and protection in the workplace during pregnancy, so that women can feel safer and more empowered to communicate their pregnancy with their employer.

“Moreover, stress during pregnancy can have negative effects on both maternal and foetal health. So, provision of psychological support during pregnancy through the public health system is important regardless of women’s and their partner’s job status.”

The authors say there are limitations in the study, such as pregnancy and job loss were self-reported and may be affected by recall and a bias towards what is socially desirable. They add other factors might also be correlated with both job loss and pregnancy loss, while the researchers did not know if the findings were the same for different socioeconomic groups.

Di Nallo A, Köksal S. Job loss during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Human Reproduction 28 September 2023; doi:10.1093/humrep/dead183

, , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Monthly Posts

Our Clients

Practice Index