Do your work commitments making getting pregnant harder?
A new study published in the journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine suggests that women who work long hours and regularly lift heavy objects may find getting pregnant harder.
The research was led by Dr. Gaskins at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health in Boston Massachusetts. Data collected over five years between 2010 and 2014 was analysed in the research. They looked at reproductive trends within the records of 1,739 women. Their average age was 33. The data was compiled as part of a Nurses’ Health Study. The focus was on female nurses trying to get pregnant.
As a baseline, a questionnaire was completed. This detailed the women’s physical labour and their work commitments. Every six months the participants were reassessed to determine the length of time it was taking to conceive.
The researchers took into consideration if the women worked nights, days, or a combination of shiftwork. They also factored for any menstrual cycle irregularly when assessing the results.
Women who worked in excess of 40 hours each week took approximately 20% longer to fall pregnant compared with those that worked 21 to 40 hours per week.
Women who lifted or moved at least 25 pounds in weight over 15 times per day took twice as long to conceive compared with women who didn’t move or lift heavy loads.
No correlation was found between day/night/shiftwork and time to conception.
These findings appear to find a relationship between working long hours and difficulties getting pregnant. Furthermore, women who regularly lift heave objects may also have problems getting pregnant.
However, there were other variables in this study which also can affect fertility. Forty-four percent of women in this study were considered overweight or obese. Researchers found that women regularly involved in heavy lifting finding it difficult to fall pregnant were also more likely to be overweight or obese.
No women in the study were current smokers. However, 22% had been smokers previously. This may have had some influence on difficulties getting pregnant. Although it is impossible to determine from this study.
What do the findings of this study mean for working women?
Gaskins and colleagues research has raised some interesting points about working lifestyle factors and fertility. The results from this study suggest that nurses that work long hours and are involved in heavy lifting may struggle to conceive. However, the exact cause(s) was not determined in this research.
This study did try to account for variables such as menstrual cycle irregularities, work exposures, interrupted sleep cycles. However, participants were not asked to report on their frequency of sexual intercourse, or any work-related fatigue.
This makes it very difficult to determine whether the findings are due to lifestyle or biological factors. All the study participants were nurses. Whether these results can be applied to women more generally remains to be confirmed.
Ways to help making getting pregnant easier
The findings of Gaskins and colleagues research highlight the importance of looking after the body. Women who are working long hours and with irregular sleep patterns may find getting pregnant takes longer. Maintaining a healthy body weight and not overdoing it is also important. This adds to the body’s exposure to stress and fatigue.
Getting pregnant doesn’t necessarily happen easily. There are many factors that affect both female and male fertility. Some of these include age, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits.
Timing and having sex as often as possible around ovulation is critical for couples trying to conceive. You can read more about determining your most fertile days clicking here.
Both men and women should try to avoid stress. Smoking and/or drinking alcohol should also be avoided. A good diet is essential as the body needs sufficient nutrients to support conception and a healthy pregnancy. There are plenty of great fertility supplements that can help.
Gaskins, Audrey J., et al. (2015). Work schedule and physical factors in relation to fecundity in nurses. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103026
Dr. Kooner is Deputy Director of The Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago and has been a Specialist in Fertility Treatment since 1999.
As well as the areas that the clinic specialises in general, he is particularly interested in managing oocyte donation, female same-sex couples, single women having sperm donation and those considering egg freezing.
Dr. Kooner regularly speaks at fertility meetings. He has published in national journals and constantly contributes to the fertility research and publications from Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago.