Women who work night shifts are at greater risk of suffering miscarriages than those who work regular office hours, according to research.
The study, led by Dr Linden Stocker and Dr Ying Cheong, also found those who work alternate and changing shifts — not just nights — are more likely to take longer to conceive a child and suffer from menstrual disruption.
The team, based at Southampton’s Princess Anne Hospital, assessed the impact of non-standard working schedules on the reproductive outcomes of 119,345 women.
They found almost a third of women (29%) who worked night shifts only had an increased rate of miscarriage, while 22% who worked alternate or changing shifts suffered menstrual disruption.
Additionally, shift workers had an 80% increased rate of subfertility, the term used to describe prolonged inability to conceive.
Dr Stocker said: “Many women work and we already know that working shifts is a risk factor for health and social wellbeing as shift workers adopt poor sleep hygiene, suffer sleep deprivation, and develop activity levels that are desynchronised from their daily routine.
“But the adverse health impacts of shift work in early reproductive function is a new, additional finding and it provides strong initial evidence that women who are trying to conceive would benefit from assessing their work patterns.”
Dr Cheong, clinical director of Princess Anne Hospital’s completefertility centre and a senior lecturer at the University of Southampton, said: “Our findings may have implications for women attempting to become pregnant as well as employers.
“But women will want to know how they can enhance their reproductive potential, not just decrease their risk of fertility problems, so we are now looking to discover the medical explanation for this in order to improve outcomes.”
The study was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference.
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