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Health & Pregnancy

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Physically Demanding Work May Lead to Pregnancy Problems


Even a relatively small increase in the risk of preterm birth is important, Mozurkewich says. "There have been a lot of studies looking at possible ways of preventing preterm birth and, for the most part, they have come up empty handed," she says. "[Working conditions] may not be the largest contributor to preterm birth in the United States, but it is another contributor."

Because many conditions can lead to premature labor or delivery, poor growth of the baby before birth, and high blood pressure, a woman should talk with her obstetrician or pregnancy specialist about whether special precautions may be needed in her case.

"Our association suggests that modifying these lifestyle factors on the job may reduce a woman's risk of preterm birth," Mozurkewich tells WebMD. "But I would emphasize that liberalizing leave policies may be necessary; it is very difficult for many women to modify activities on the job. It is much easier said than done."

  • Physically taxing work conditions can increase the risk of a woman having problems with pregnancy, such as preterm birth, babies that are small for gestational age, and high blood pressure or preeclampsia.
  • Work conditions that were associated with these problems included prolonged standing, heavy lifting, and shift work, but working long hours did not show an association.
  • Preterm birth can cause major long-term problems in children, so women may want to consider modifying lifestyle factors on the job and employers may want to implement better maternity leave policies.
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