Sunday, July 01, 2012

Women who work more than 25 hours a week while pregnant 'more likely to have smaller babies'

Probably just a class effect.  Working class women may be more likely to have full time jobs and they have more trouble-prone babies anyway.  Women from wealthier families may not work at all and, broadly, wealth=health

Pregnant women who work more than 25 hours a week tend to have smaller babies, according to research.  They weigh up to half a pound (200g) less than average at birth.

Scientists also found a connection between the amount of time pregnant women spent on their feet at work and the size of their babies, with those standing ‘often’ in jobs such as teaching or sales more likely to have smaller children.

One explanation is that more physically demanding work may reduce the flow of blood to the placenta, limiting the amount of nutrients and oxygen going to the foetus.

Experts do not know why working long hours in an office job would have a similar effect, but it may be due to stress.

Although smaller babies are not necessarily unhealthier, they are at higher risk from breathing problems, heart defects and conditions affecting their digestion. There is also evidence that they are at higher risk of learning difficulties and developmental problems later on.

The researchers from the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam in the Netherlands surveyed 4,680 expectant mothers, who were 30 weeks pregnant. They were asked how many hours they worked a week and whether they ‘often’ spent long periods on their feet.

Those who worked more than 25 hours a week subsequently had babies weighing 5-7oz (148-198g) less than average. The circumference around the heads was nearly half an inch (1cm) shorter.

There were similar results for those who spent long periods on their feet while working during their pregnancy.

The authors, whose study is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said employers should do more to make pregnant women’s jobs as comfortable as possible.

‘Optimising the work environment is important since participation of women in the reproductive age in the workforce continues to increase,’ they said.

‘Preventive measures reducing certain occupational conditions, such as shift work, night hours, standing, lifting and noise, have proven to reduce the risks of adverse birth outcomes.’

Dr Jenny Myers, from Manchester University’s Maternal and Foetal Health Research Centre, said: ‘The observed effects are not big enough to dramatically increase the number of growth-restricted babies, but it is not known whether these very subtle changes in growth trajectory have any significance in the long term.’

Prof Alex Burdorf, the lead author, said: 'We were not surprised that (the babies') head size was smaller in pregnant women who stand for a long time at work, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was only by a modest amount - three per cent smaller than average at birth.'


How labour lasts longer for nervous mothers: Birth can take extra 90 minutes if you are worried

This is undoubtedly true.  Relaxation is the key to an easy childbirth.  In the old days women about to give birth were often given brandy for that reason

Women who are nervous  about giving birth have far longer labours – taking an extra hour  and a half to deliver their baby,  say  researchers.  Nervous women typically take eight hours to give birth, while those who aren’t scared take six and a half hours.

It is thought up to a fifth of women are scared of giving birth, known as tocophobia.   The researchers said scared women release adrenaline, stopping the muscles in their womb from properly contracting and pushing out the baby.

The study also found that those who were frightened were more likely to need an epidural or a caesarean.

And they were less likely to communicate with midwives about problems, so any assistance they may have needed was delayed.

Researchers from the University of Oslo asked 2,206 women who were 32 weeks pregnant to take a psychological test which worked out their fear of childbirth.

Around 7.5 per cent of the women – all first-time mothers – were defined as scared of childbirth.

Lead researcher Samantha Salvesen Adams, of the Health Services Research Centre, Akershus University Hospital, Norway, said: ‘Generally, longer labour duration increases the risk of emergency caesarean section.

‘However, it is important to note that a large proportion of women with a fear of childbirth successfully had a vaginal delivery and so elective caesarean delivery should not be routinely recommended.’

The study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that nervous women spent one hour and 32 minutes longer in labour.

John Thorp, of BJOG, said: ‘This research shows that women with fear of childbirth are more likely to need intervention and this needs to be explored further so that obstetricians and midwives can provide support and advice.’


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