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Is Your Job Impacting Your Fertility?

woman and test tube

a blog by Kim Griffiths, July 9, 2013

Presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in London, a new British study claims shiftwork may lead to female infertility.

Women who work varying hours, and therefore sleep on irregular schedules, might actually be disrupting the regularity of their menstrual cycles. Irregular menstrual cycles are often an indication of anovulation, which make getting pregnant more difficult.

The University of Southampton researchers examined data of more than 119,000 women since 1969 based on their shift schedules. Just as previous research has linked sleep deprivation to poorer health, working varying shifts and not getting the recommended amount of sleep can increase a woman’s risk of infertility and miscarriage. This study found alternating shift-working women to have 33% higher risk of irregular menstrual cycles and 80% increased risk of diminished fertility than a woman who works the 9-5 shift. Women who consistently worked the night shift did not suffer impaired fertility, but did have an increased risk of miscarriage.

Overall, it seems consistent shift work, even on evening or night shifts, is best for a woman’s fertility. Further research is recommended to determine the risk of infertility and other health complications caused by circadian rhythm disturbances.


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