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Shift work may negatively affect a woman’s fertility

The results of a recent survey conducted by researchers at Southampton University suggest that a woman’s work schedule – and sleeping patterns – may have an affect on her fertility.

Of 100, 000 women surveyed, those with careers that involved shift work were twice as likely to fall into the “sub-fertile” category. These women were more likely to fail to become pregnant within a year of trying to conceive a child. Women who worked night shifts were 80% more likely to face difficulties with achieving a pregnancy, when compared with women who worked a typical “9 to 5” work day. Shift work was also associated with higher rates of miscarriage, irregular periods, and problems with fertility.

The theory is that shift work, particularly when night shifts are required, often results in irregular sleep patterns. This may disrupt a woman’s “body clock” and negatively impact important physiological processes such as hormone production, temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate – processes that can affect a woman’s reproductive health. In addition, it is more likely that the eating and exercise patterns of women who work outside of the regular 9 to 5 work schedule, will be disrupted, which may also impact their fertility and overall well-being. Says lead researcher Dr. Linden Stocker:

“We don’t fully understand why shift workers have an increased risk of certain diseases but obviously shift work impacts on your biological functioning, your psychological functioning and your social functioning”. 

Experts agree that more research is needed to further explore the link between shift work, sleeping patterns, and fertility challenges.

To read more about this study, click here.

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