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Working it Out – Could your occupation have a negative effect on your fertility?

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Working it Out – Could your occupation have a negative effect on your fertility?

It’s no secret that stress and anxiety can impact on a woman’s ability to conceive, but can the pressures and demands of your working life – or even the nature of your work – actually be stopping you from falling pregnant?

While employers (and hopefully pregnant women themselves) are aware of the need for workplaces to carry out a risk assessment for expectant mums, the same potential areas for concern are rarely considered in terms of the effect they could have on a couple’s attempts to conceive.

A typical risk assessment for an expectant mum-to-be would examine her working conditions and exposure to certain chemical, physical or biological agents – the very same things that could be impeding conception.

So what are the risks in the workplace? Surprisingly, it’s not just chemicals or the effects of hard or physical labour. Earlier this year, researchers at Southampton University found that shift workers took longer to become pregnant compared to those who kept regular working hours, and that night-shifters were more likely to miscarry, with the study’s authors citing an increased rate of 29%.

The number crunchers studied data on women who worked on rotas from 1969 onwards and analysed some 119,345 females.

They discovered that those women who worked varied shifts had an 80% higher rate of sub-fertility compared to females working normal hours.

It was also found that female shift or rota workers had a 33% higher rate of disruption to their menstrual cycles.

The report’s author, Dr Linden Stockers, said that although her study could not establish why shift working was associated with fertility problems, she thought that sleep disruption could have an effect on the ‘clock genes’ which can impede biological functions.

But of course it is not just shift workers whose occupations put their fertility at risk – in 2009 scientists warned women who worked with pesticides that they could fi nd it took them longer to fall pregnant. The study examined females working in agriculture and living within 200 feet of agricultural fi elds and found that they had taken significantly longer to conceive than those women who had not been exposed to pesticides.

The full Working it Out – Could your occupation have a negative effect on your fertility article is available in the latest issue of Fertility Road.