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Pregnant workers face preterm birth risks from shift work and long hours: study

Photo: MaxRiesgo/iStockphoto

Melbourne, Australia — Shift work and long hours can significantly raise the risk of preterm birth for pregnant workers, according to the results of a recent study.

A team led by researchers from Monash University reviewed 37 studies from 21 countries to better understand the relationship between physical jobs risks and preterm birth before 37 weeks.

They found that pregnant women whose jobs include shift work face a 63% higher preterm birth risk. For those who work 40-plus hours a week, the risk is 44% higher compared with pregnant women who work less than 40 hours a week.

Additionally, the researchers found “moderate nonquantifiable evidence” that jobs involving high physical exertion or whole-body vibration are linked to preterm birth.

The researchers advise employers to consider modifications for jobs with physical demands and encourage pregnant workers to communicate with their employer about ways to reduce risks.

“As the number of women in the workforce has increased, so has the number of women in physically demanding jobs,” study co-author Alex Collie said in the release. “We need workplace policy and procedures that balance these risks while not limiting the workforce participation of women.”

The study was published online in the journal Public Health Reviews.

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