Pregnant women who are working fulltime in a high stress job should cut down their working hours to around 24 hours a week during pregnancy, Dutch researchers said this week after a study showed babies of stressed working mums suffered adverse health effects.
Pregnant women who work more than 32 hours a week in a high stress job are more likely to have babies who cry excessively, children with low birthweight and are more at risk for the dangerous pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia, according to research published earlier this month.
The study of 7,000 pregnant women in Amsterdam has found that women who work 32 hours a week or more in a high stress job have children with a significantly lower birthweight.
On average the difference was about 150 grams, the same weight difference seen in babies of women who smoke during pregnancy, researcher Gouke Bonsel told the De Volkskrant paper Friday.
According to the researchers there is a clear link between the amount of work stress an expecting mother faces and the risk of having a baby that cries excessively.
The lower birthweight of babies of hardworking mothers is also a concern, they added. There are indications that babies with low birthweight tend to get fat easier and thus run a higher risk in later life of getting diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Finally the stressed-out mothers are more at risk of developing a dangerous condition known as pre-eclampsia which causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to surge to perilously high levels.
It affects between two and three percent of pregnancies, and is responsible for around 60,000 deaths worldwide each year.
The stress levels of the women in the Dutch study were established by having them fill in standardized questionnaires and checking the levels of known stress hormones like cortisol in their blood.