Long Work Week, Heavy Lifting Linked To Decreased Fertility in Nurses

Dr. Audrey J Gaskins Department of Nutrition Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Boston, MAMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Audrey J Gaskins
Department of Nutrition
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, MA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Gaskins: Previous studies have linked shift work, long working hours, and physical factors to an increased risk of menstrual cycle disturbances, spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, and low birth weight; however the association with fecundity is inconsistent. Several papers have also reviewed the occupational exposures of health care workers and concluded that reproductive health issues are a concern. Therefore we sought to determine the extent to which work schedules and physical factors were associated with fecundity in a large cohort of nurses. Women who work in an industry that requires them to work from a height or even lift heavy objects requires them to undertake training which guides them though the effective stages on how to work safely at heights. Without the right training, this sort of work can become very dangerous.

Our main findings were that that working >40 hours per week and moving or lifting a heavy load >15 times per day (including repositioning or transferring patients) were associated with reduced fecundity in our cohort of female nurses planning pregnancy. However, all other factors such as frequency of night work, duration of rotating and non-rotating night shifts, and time spent walking or standing at work were not significantly associated with fecundity in this cohort.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Gaskins: Heavy work, both in terms of physical strain and long hours, appears to have a detrimental impact on a female nurses’ ability to get pregnant. While our results need to be replicated in other cohorts before strong recommendations can be made, female nurses who are planning pregnancy should be cognizant of the potential negative impacts heavy work could have on their reproductive health.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Gaskins: Future work which better aims to characterize physical workload in terms of intensity, fatigue, and strain are clearly needed, particularly in other occupations. It would also be of interest to determine whether the effects of working long hours or moving or lifting heavy loads may be reversible once exposure ends.


Work schedule and physical factors in relation to fecundity in nurses

Audrey J Gaskins, Janet W Rich-Edwards, Christina C Lawson, Eva S Schernhammer, Stacey A Missmer, Jorge E Chavarro

Occup Environ Med oemed-2015-103026Published Online First: 6 August 2015 doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103026

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Dr. Audrey J Gaskins (2015). Long Work Week, Heavy Lifting Linked To Decreased Fertility in Nurses

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