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Night shifts double premature birth risk

December 14, 2005

Here's a warning for women who happen to be working nights while pregnant: Staying awake during the wee hours may affect what happens in your uterus. A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina has revealed that working nightshifts in the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth by up to 50 per cent!

They studied the working conditions of 1,900 pregnant women, and found that while standing for long periods and lifting heavy weights did not increase the risk of premature labour, night shifts did, possibly because they disrupt normal activity in the womb. The women who took part in the study were all interviewed in the seventh month of pregnancy, and asked to report details about their jobs, such as how many hours a day they spent standing, and how many times they lifted an object weighing 10 kgs or more.

The findings showed that even women who spent more than 30 hours a week on their feet were no more likely than other women to give birth prematurely, or have smaller-than-normal babies. The same was true of women who repeatedly lifted heavy objects. It was the 166 women who worked nights that were found to be at risk.

The reason for the link is still unclear and researchers claim that, until further studies are done, it would be premature to make recommendations to pregnant women about working nights. They admitted that the findings were based on a small sample size and warranted further exploration.


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