Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Fertility
The connection between certain workplace hazards such as working with chemicals, other hazardous substances and particular working practices have been well documented over the years in terms of the effects they can have on female fertility and reproductive health. And, depending on the length of exposure and the period of the pregnancy when the exposure occurs, the effects can be different.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all women will be affected by the same conditions or even that they will necessarily be affected at all but it is important to recognise what effects can occur and what are the agents that cause these effects.
Types of Hazards that can Effect Female FertilityCertain Workplace Hazards that can affect female fertility in the workplace include working with lead, carbon disulphide, drug manufacture for cancer treatment, ionising radiation which can result from working with X-rays and gamma rays in addition to the physical effects of the job itself if it includes strenuous physical activity such as Heavy Lifting and Carrying or intensely physical work or prolonged periods of standing.
Fertility can also be affected through being infected by other workers who may have contracted German measles, chicken pox or hepatitis B, for example, which is preventable providing the expectant mother has been vaccinated against these kinds of diseases.
What Effects can All of This Have?It must be emphasised that the effects of workplace hazards can vary from person to person and many women may not experience any problems whatsoever, although it has been shown that for some, exposure to harmful chemicals and other substances during the first three months of pregnancy can result in a miscarriage or a birth defect. Beyond the first 3 months up to the point of giving birth, the exposure to harmful substances can slow down the growth of the foetus, can affect the development of its brain and can induce a premature labour.
Exposure to the likes of carbon disulphide and increased physical or emotional stress has been known to create an imbalance between the ovaries, brain and pituitary which can then affect oestrogen and progesterone levels which can cause changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle pattern in terms of its length, regularity and ovulation.
Any kind of disruption or damage to the eggs can cause problems with fertility which can result in the malformed development of the foetus and perhaps problems of a physical nature occurring in the uterus and/or cervix.
How Can the Baby Itself be Affected?As a result of a Pregnant Woman being exposed to harmful substances and other hazards in the workplace, if she does carry her pregnancy through to term, it can cause the baby to be born underweight or can lead to delays in a baby’s development or in learning disabilities later in childhood. Problems can include having a short attention span or attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, a reduced capacity to be able to learn and even mental retardation in extreme cases.
Of course, it must also be said that many of these instances could have equally been caused by the mother’s own choice of lifestyle and not necessarily as the result of workplace hazards so things like smoking, alcohol consumption and nutritional neglect could also be responsible for any baby’s birth defects or developmental problems.
It will be the decision of the woman to determine how she wants to conduct her life once she finds out she is pregnant when she considers any issues regarding the type of work she does and any risks associated with that and with her workplace in general as well as any changes she may feel the need to make in her own lifestyle.
As mentioned, many women do not have any problems with their pregnancies and go on to give birth to healthy babies. It is, however, useful to at least be aware of the potential risks so that you can make an informed decision and, if in doubt, speak to your GP who will be able to offer you advice.