How shift work can change when you give birth

Four key lifestyle factors could dramatically change a pregnant woman’s due date and Melbourne researchers have revealed why.

A Monash University team found shift work increased a woman’s risk by 63 per cent compared to other workers, while a 40-plus hour work week was linked to a 44 per cent rise.

The review, based on data from more than a million women, found jobs that were physically demanding or caused “whole body vibration” – such as when driving construction equipment – also ­increased the risk.

But co-author, Monash’s Alex Collie, emphasised that employers and governments can make policy changes to reduce these risks, and said work overall had a positive impact on people’s health.

“We’re absolutely not saying that pregnant women should not work, that’s not the message,” Professor Collie, of Monash’s school of public health and preventive medicine, said.

The study, published in Public Health Reviews, defined shift work as working different hours across a roster, as opposed to someone who, for example, works the same night shift every time.

“It’s about your working hours changing and that means the rest of your life has to accommodate those things like sleep,” Prof Collie said.

First author and PhD student Haimanot Abebe Adane said their findings could be used to prevent preterm birth, which affects 15 million babies globally each year.

“This study is important because preterm birth has been linked with health complications for children such as diabetes, hypertension, lung and heart disease later in adulthood,” he said.

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