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Shift Work and Heavy Lifting Found to Negatively Affect Female Fertility

New research by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found out that women who work on physically demanding jobs and those whose working schedules that are outside normal daytime working hours have decreased fertility, as evidenced by a lower ability to conceive.

New Study Findings

The study that brought to light the findings described above was published under Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It was conducted by Boston, MA T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s research fellow Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón from the institution’s Department of Environmental Health as the lead author and completed alongside research associate Audrey Gaskins from the Department of Nutrition together with other researchers.

Mínguez-Alarcón shared that their study suggests that women who are planning to get pregnant should be made aware of the possible negative impacts that heavy lifting and working on a non-day shift have on their reproductive health and ability to conceive.

Female FertilityWhy This Is New

Although science already knows that certain factors related to occupation affect fertility (and that some factors can prolong the time it took to get pregnant or negatively affect a woman’s ability to carry a pregnancy to term), the studies performed in the past do not really go into the physiological explanation as to why this happens.

It should be noted that the study conducted by Mínguez-Alarcón went into the measurement of biomarkers of fertility such as levels of reproductive hormones and ovarian function, making the new study one of the very first to gauge if workplace factors have an effect on a woman’s biological ability to have a child.

Focused Research

The research got data from women who required treatment for their fertility problems. The focus on this research population allowed researchers to measure biomarkers of fertility that are not possible to evaluate in women who are attempting natural conception.

Together with her colleagues, Mínguez-Alarcón examined indicators of ovarian reserve in 473 patients who availed of infertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. The measurement of ovarian reserve can determine declining fertility because it is the measurement of remaining eggs that declines as a woman ages.

The research team observed ovarian response in 313 of the study respondents who have completed at least a cycle of IVF. Ovarian response is a number of mature eggs that can develop into healthy embryos.

The women in the study were also asked questions that determined the working schedules and physical demands of their jobs. The researchers gathered all the data and analyzed the relationship between these factors and the biomarkers of ovarian response and ovarian reserve. The women’s sedentary and physical activities during their leisure time were also documented and analyzed.

Thought-Provoking Findings

The study showed that those who lifted heavy weights have no issues with their FSH levels but women whose jobs are physically demanding have a lower egg reserve. Those who worked shifts were found to have fewer mature eggs on average than those who worked normal office hours. Those who worked nights had the fewest number of mature eggs.

Audrey Gaskins shared that their study shows that non-day shifts and occupational heavy lifting may adversely affect egg quality and production. She also stated that further work is needed to find out if egg quality and production can still be improved if the above situations are avoided.

It should be noted that this study is observational and non-conclusive. Further studies will be needed to assess what impact other influential factors may have on women’s fertility.