Physical Reproductive Hazards

Physical hazards in an agricultural setting that can impact reproductive outcomes are primarily associated with activities during pregnancy. Few studies have looked specifically at physical hazards in an agricultural occupation. A number of studies have associated poor pregnancy outcomes with activities that are common in agricultural work: physical labor, heavy lifting, long hours, and shift work.

Jobs that involve an increase in abdominal pressure (bending and lifting), standing 6 or more hours per day, working more than 40 hours per week, and performing heavy lifting have been consistently associated with an increased incidence of spontaneous abortion and pre-term delivery. Shift work has also been associated with pre-term delivery. Outcomes of low birth-weight have not been as consistently associated with physically strenuous work. One study found long weeks of physically demanding work could result in a decrease in fetal weight, but no association was found for pre-term delivery. Occupational noise exposure at levels of 85 dB has been inconsistently associated with low birth-weight. Heat stress can also contribute to adverse fetal outcomes in the last trimester of pregnancy (32,61-64).

Whenever possible, heavy work duties should be modified and frequent rest periods taken throughout pregnancy to lower the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. If not possible, then more frequent clinician visits and placement in pre-term birth prevention classes may be valuable.

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