Working odd hours may take its toll on fertility

Women who work irregular shifts appear more likely to suffer from reproductive health issues.

By Bruce Kennedy Jul 12, 2013 8:40AM

Worried woman copyright momentimages/Tetra images RF/Getty ImagesDoes anyone just work 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday, anymore? Given our global, 24-hour culture and that fact that you can no longer hide from the office, thanks to cell phones and other technologies, a large portion of us are on call and at work at all hours.

A 2004 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes around one-third of wage and salary workers have flexible schedules at their primary jobs -- meaning they can vary their daily start and finish times. But about one-fifth of the gainfully employed work a shift other than the standard daytime shift. That also includes the nearly 15 million Americans estimated to work night shifts.

Medical professionals have long warned about health issues associated with the third shift: insomnia, irritability, weight gain and poor heart health. But a new report says shift work may also adversely affect a woman's reproductive health and fertility.

The study, presented this week to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, looked at data from nearly 120,000 women. And it found those working nontraditional shifts -- that is, alternating hours, evenings and nights -- had a 33% higher rate of menstrual disruption than women who worked regular hours. Those shift workers also experienced an 80% higher rate of "sub-fertility," or diminished reproductive capacity.

The report found that while women who worked only night shifts didn't have an increased risk of menstrual disruption or difficulty conceiving, they did have an increased rate of miscarriages -- although that particular risk wasn't seen in women who worked nights as part of a alternating shift pattern.

Dr. Linden Stocker from Britain's University of Southampton presented the report, and she said the research has proven an association, but not a causation, between shift work and negative reproductive outcomes in women. Many people working outside the routine daily hours, no matter their gender, are known to suffer from sleep deprivation and other biological disturbances.

However, if future research confirms these studies, she said in a press statement, "there may be implications for shift workers and their reproductive plans."

"More friendly shift patterns with less impact on circadian rhythm could be adopted where practical," she added, "although the optimal shift pattern required to maximize reproductive potential is yet to be established."

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Jul 12, 2013 11:09PM

Retired last year after 20 years of 01:00 tours, and 12+ hour days. After 6 months I no longer need bifocals and my long distance vision has dramatically improved. In addition I dropped 25 pounds, and my borderline blood sugar and blood pressure are now "wonderful" according to my doctor.


BTW no I'm not working out or by any means on a diet.


Cut yourself a break, get your sleep, shut the cell phone OFF! You will live longer and happier.             

Jul 15, 2013 6:20PM
Another stupid study, I worked nights so that I could be home when my son came home from school and all it took was discipline.  A lot of my coworkers that used to start a 6:30 am would look like they just came off my shift that was just ending, and I was the one that looked like I was just coming in.  And all because I would sleep till noon, get up, do what I had to do, I would have dinner with my boy, and then before work, I took a nap. When you're organized, there's no room for sickness. Oh by the way, I had a coworker that had 5 kids working the third shift, so go figure.
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