Published: Thu, February 09, 2017
Health Care | By Jeffery Armstrong

Heavy Lifting at Work Linked to Decreased Fertility in Women

Heavy Lifting at Work Linked to Decreased Fertility in Women

A new study has linked shift work and physically demanding jobs to lower fertility among women. Those with such positions were found to have fewer viable eggs, which can potentially make it harder for a woman to conceive.

"Our study suggests that women who are planning pregnancy should be cognizant of the potential negative impacts that non-day shift and heavy lifting could have on their reproductive health", study co-author Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said in a statement.

In order to conduct this study, researchers analyzed more than 500 women who seek infertility treatment in the US.

And while women who worked only nights did not yield the same results, they did have an increased rate of miscarriage.

Published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the findings were most prevalent in women who were overweight or obese, or over the age of 37 years old. Yet they do suspect that the fertility issues associated with working non-day shifts may stem from a disruption in a woman's circadian rhythm.

As for the non-day shifts, the study reveals that this occupational requirement is even more risky for the production of egg and the quality of the released eggs, compared with other women with a normal working schedule, at the same age and weight.

Women who are overweight and also have physically demanding jobs tend to have even more problems when it comes to fertility.

The researchers looked at indicators of "ovarian reserve" - levels of follicle stimulating hormone, which rise as a woman ages and represent dwindling fertility, and the number of remaining eggs - in 473 women attending a fertility clinic.

Research found that a physically demanding job or work schedules outside of normal office hours may lower a woman's ability to conceive.

The authors warned that the study is observational - so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

However, the mechanism by which moving or lifting heavy loads could affect egg quality is still unknown.

"It is hard to hypothesise a mechanism by which a physically demanding job may have a negative effect on ovarian reserve, as the number of eggs (oocytes) is determined at birth and lost progressively throughout life, with smoking having been shown to be the main toxin that significantly diminishes ovarian reserve".

However, they say no studies have been able to measure physical changes that work could bring about, such as in reproductive hormones and womb function.

A separate study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pinpointed obesity as a factor influencing a couple's ability to conceive.

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