Shift Work and Fertility


Women who work night shifts or on rotating rosters have decreased fertility, new research has shown.


According to Dr Stephen Lane, fertility specialist at the City Fertility Centre Adelaide, this is new information and represents “a really important finding.”


“It tells us women having fertility treatment should be avoiding shift work, and we can start advising women of this when they come in to clinic. It is a positive and practical change that women can make straight away,” he tells Mamamia.


The link between stress at work and reduced fertility is not new, but the shift work angle is something previously unconsidered.


“There’s always been a concern that stress at work affects fertility. Both physical and emotional stress” Dr Lane said.


“Shift work takes a great toll on the body in the way it affects its biorhythms, so there is a logical correlation with decreased fertility. Now, research has confirmed this.”


The study, published in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found women working evening shifts, night shifts or on rotating rosters had 2.3 fewer mature oocytes (eggs), on average, compared with women who worked during the day.


As well as this, women who reported lifting heavy objects at work had fewer eggs than those who did not.


“In fertility treatment, we look to two aspects – both the quality and quantity of eggs,” Dr Lane said. “Two fewer eggs is a significant reduction in quantity and this would have a significant impact on fertility.”


“It means women working night shifts, who are also seeking fertility treatment, are likely to need more treatments in order to be successful,” he continued.


Women working night shifts have fewer mature eggs than women who work during the day.


The wish to fall pregnant can be all-consuming. Women often make huge lifestyle changes, to their diet and exercise regimen, to the way they monitor their cycles, in order to increase their chances of conception.


“This is a simple adjustment,” Dr Lane said. “And I think the benefits of stopping shifts are likely to be almost immediate. It will immediately reduce stress on the body, and this will help in fertility.”


These findings offer another possible lifestyle change, one that is concrete and positive and immediately effective, that will help women’s chances of falling pregnant in what is a very emotionally exhausting and expensive time.


Please speak openly and freely with your obstetrician or midwife about any concerns you have by calling 08 8272 7755 or speak to us during your appointment.


This article first appeared on MamaMia: