It is increasingly common to work during your pregnancy. While you may be experiencing physical and mental changes and pregnancy-related symptoms, working night shifts during pregnancy may exacerbate your condition. Because relaxation and sufficient sleep are important when pregnant, working night shifts might put your pregnancy at risk.
Read on to learn more about how night shifts may influence your pregnancy, some problems faced in night shifts during pregnancy, some professions that affect your health during pregnancy, and some tips that may help you manage working through your night shift.
Pregnancy And Night Shift Work
Can you work a night shift when pregnant? Working the night shift while pregnant is a problem that is commonly faced in today’s work scenario. According to the CDC, working at night can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which may regulate hormones in pregnancy (1). Also, sickness during pregnancy also adds to the inconvenience. In the worst case, you can only catch up on your sleep during weekends.
The Sleep Foundation suggests that sleep deprivation in pregnancy could negatively impact your immunity and health (2). Therefore, if you are compelled to work night shifts during pregnancy, it is crucial to prioritize healthy prenatal care.
Problems Faced In Night Shifts During Pregnancy
Though you take extra care of yourself during night shifts, you cannot escape from the problems below:
- Lack of co-workers to help you during emergencies.
- Lack of sound sleep that is essential for healthy fetal development during pregnancy.
- More work, especially at night, will lead to stress.
- Loud noise of people or machines at night is disturbing.
As per reports from the Johns Hopkins Medicine, inadequate sleep could put you at risk of pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsiaiXA pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure, water retention, and protein content in urine , gestational diabetesiXA condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels due to hormonal and physical changes in pregnancy , prolonged labor, and increased risk of a cesarean section (3).
Certain Professions That Affect Your Health During Pregnancy:
Certain professions may demand you stay alert through the night shifts:
- If you are a doctor on night duty, you have to be alert physically and mentally throughout the night.
- If you are working in an international call center, you have to attend calls for the entire night.
- Software engineers working in front of computers, for a long stretch at night, may suffer mental stress, a high risk of preterm delivery or fetal loss.
- Flight attendants are at a high risk of pregnancy termination if they have to attend night flights regularly.
12 Essential Tips For Working In Night Shifts During Pregnancy
Sometimes you cannot avoid night shifts during pregnancy, but you can be cautious by following the below points:
- Inform your superiors about your pregnancy so that they may give you some support and facilities in case of any emergency.
- Do not wear tight clothing.
- Try to sleep at least seven hours in a day.
- Do not work too much to boost your performance. According to a collaborative study by researchers from multiple institutes, women who work over 55.5 hours per week have a 10% higher risk of preterm delivery than those working 40 hours per week. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid exerting themselves and prioritize relaxation and maintaining good health.
- Prioritize your safety when working with harmful chemicals.
- Talk to your superiors if you are sick and need leave.
- Take regular breaks and walk around. It will help in checking swollen feet and prevent backaches.
- Consume a lot of fluid during work.
- Consume green tea, almonds, raisins, berries, greens and other healthy foods at night.
- Do not consume non-vegetarian meals at night as it leads to indigestion.
- Carry a night-aid kit containing medicines
- It is better for you to avoid caffeine beverages at night as it can cause acidity and other problems.
Learn about your company’s maternity workplace policies and your legal rights. According to experts, you can work up to six months of your pregnancy but it is decided on an individual basis. Consult your doctor for the same.
Tips For A Healthy Pregnancy:
- Resting during the day is important for you, as you work in night shifts.
- Exposure to sunlight is also very important. So it is advisable for you to go out in fresh air for at least an hour.
- Pregnant women working night shifts should maintain a regular sleep schedule to avoid disrupted melatonin levels that may impact their circadian rhythm and cause sleep deprivation, potentially affecting fetal development.
- Consume lots of milk, cereals and pulses during the day and eat healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I work 12-hour shifts when pregnant?
A study reports that extended working hours during pregnancy were associated with increased risks of high blood pressure pregnancy, vacuum/forceps deliveryiXA method of supporting childbirth by using special tools to deliver the baby vaginally gently , and low birth weight (small-for-gestational-age) babies (4).
2. When should I stop working when pregnant?
The exact time to stop working during pregnancy is not defined. It depends on factors such as health condition, work role, comfort, and finances (5). Many women find around 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy ideal to stop going to work.
3. Can pregnant women work night shifts if they have a high-risk pregnancy?
Pregnant women with high-risk pregnancies should avoid working night shifts if possible, as it may pose additional health risks to the mother and the fetus.
4. What accommodations should employers provide for pregnant women working night shifts?
Some possible accommodations include providing appropriate breaks, access to restroom facilities, and a clean, safe work environment. The employer should also permit brief naps and access to a pantry, if possible.
5. Can working night shifts affect the baby’s development during pregnancy?
Working night shifts during pregnancy may potentially affect the baby’s development. However, the risk depends on various factors, including the nature of the work, the duration of the night work, and the overall health of the mother and fetus.
6. How can pregnant women manage the increased risk of accidents while working night shifts?
Wearing comfortable and anti-slip footwear, working in a well-lit and ventilated environment, using equipment safely, and avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity can reduce the risk of accidents in pregnant women while working night shifts.
7. What are the effects of working night shifts on the mother’s immune system during pregnancy?
Shift workers may have an increased risk of viral infections due to a potential compromise of their immune systems due to sleep disturbances (7). This may make the woman prone to infections since the immune system is already altered during pregnancy. However, more studies are needed to establish a connection between night shift work and infections during pregnancy.
8. What are the signs that a pregnant woman should stop working night shifts?
Pregnant women should stop working night shifts if they experience extreme fatigue and exhaustion, lack of sleep during the remaining hours of the day, difficulty concentrating, and increased stress and anxiety.
More and more women wish to have a successful professional life throughout their pregnancies. However, some jobs may need them to work during the night, which may concern them about its effect on their pregnancy. Working through the night may cause difficulties due to the changing pregnancy symptoms. Nonetheless, if you have to work during the night shift, ensure you eat healthy food, maintain enough hydration, and get adequate rest during the day. You can seek medical advice regarding how to care for your health since your doctor knows better about your pregnancy health.
Infographic: Ways To Ensure Better Sleep When Working Night Shifts
Even if you cannot avoid night shifts during pregnancy, you still need to ensure you get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is vital to conserve a healthy circadian rhythmiXThe body’s internal clock that helps you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning , which is necessary for your and your baby’s health. Check out this infographic below for some tips on sound sleep and optimal rest when working night shifts.
- Working night shifts during pregnancy can harm the body’s circadian rhythm and increase the risk of complications.
- Being sleep deprived while pregnant may compromise a woman’s health and immunity.
- Night shifts during pregnancy can lead to inadequate sleep and lack of co-workers for emergencies, resulting in pregnancy-related complications.
- Certain professions like doctors, call center workers, software engineers, and flight attendants can affect the health of pregnant women working night shifts.
- Tips for working night shifts while pregnant include notifying superiors, taking breaks, eating and drinking healthily, carrying a night-aid kit, resting during the day, and getting sunlight exposure.
- Work Schedule – Reproductive Health.
- Pregnancy and Sleep.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep During Pregnancy.
- Nobuhiro Suzumori et al.; (2019); Effects of long working hours and shift work during pregnancy on obstetric and perinatal outcomes: A large prospective cohort study—Japan Environment and Children’s Study.
- Working during pregnancy.
- Natalie Dragon; (2020); To nap or not to nap on night shift?
- Carlos Mauricio Oliveira de Almeidaa, and Adriana Malheiro; (2016); Sleep, immunity and shift workers: A review