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Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

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Health Concerns: Reproductive Health

In the workforce, 75% of women are of reproductive age. Over half the children born in the United States are born to working mothers. 1 Many NIOSH studies were done to learn whether women may have reproductive health hazards that may be related to their work environment.

NIOSH Publications

The Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive Health
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 99-104 (1999)
En Español

Related Resources

A longitudinal analysis of total workload and women's health after childbirth
This study involved employed women who were recruited while hospitalized for childbirth. Results included that the time spent on paid and unpaid work was associated with significantly poorer mental health and increased postpartum symptoms during the first year after childbirth.

Earlier age at menopause, work, and tobacco smoke exposure
Among women older than 25, earlier age at menopause was found among all smokers and among service and manufacturing industry sector workers. Women (particularly black women) age 25 to 50 had an increased risk of earlier age at menopause with both primary smoking and second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure. Control of SHS exposure in the workplace may decrease the risk of death and illness associated with earlier age at menopause in US women workers.

Workplace Safety and Women (Podcast) (Running time: 7:41)
This women's health podcast focuses on four important issues for women at work: job stress, work schedules, reproductive health, and workplace violence. (Created: 5/11/2009 by Office of Womens Health (OWH) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).


DDT exposure, work in agriculture, and time to pregnancy among farmworkers in California
Longer time to conceive was found in female, but not male migrant farmworkers who reported they were exposed to agricultural and home pesticides.

Effects of exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides on thyroid function during pregnancy
The study involving mostly young Latina women from farmworker families found that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and/or hexachlorobenzene at background levels may affect thyroid function during pregnancy. Thyroid hormones of mothers may play an essential role in the development of their children.

Maternal occupational exposure to pesticides and the risk of musculoskeletal birth defects: a preliminary analysis.
Women whose jobs exposed them to herbicides and insecticides were found to have higher risk of having babies with a birth defect involving the intestines and a condition in which all or part of the arm or leg is missing.

Risk factors for female infertility in an agricultural region
This study looked at women working or living in an agricultural setting and the risk of female infertility. The results suggest that certain agricultural, residential and lifestyle choices may affect the risk of female infertility.

Health Care

Occupational exposure to anesthetic gases, antineoplastic drugs, antiviral drugs, sterilizing agents, and x-rays and risk of spontaneous abortion among nurses
In a study involving more than 7,000 nurses, findings suggested that self-reported occupational exposure to cancer drugs and sterilizing agents was related to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion.

Occupational factors and risk of preterm birth in nurses
In a study involving a large group of nurses, women who worked part-time had a lower risk of delivering pre-term babies, although there was no clear relationship with overtime hours. Nurses who worked night shift had a three-fold risk of delivering their babies in the early-preterm stage (before 32 weeks), but not with later (32-36 weeks) preterm. Other findings included that prolonged standing and heavy lifting were weak predictors of preterm birth.

Rotating shift work and menstrual cycle characteristics
In a study involving female nurses, those women who reported working rotating shifts for 20 or more months were more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles.

Work schedule during pregnancy and spontaneous abortion
This study looked at whether work schedule can affect the risk of miscarriage in U.S. nurses. Researchers found night work and long work hours may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.


Physical activity, physical exertion, and miscarriage risk in women textile workers in Shanghai, China
Compared with women working in sedentary jobs, pregnant women in jobs with light or medium physical activity had a reduced risk of miscarriage. Frequent crouching was associated with elevated risk.


Adverse health outcomes among cosmetologists and noncosmetologists in the Reproductive Outcomes of Salon Employees (ROSE) study
Cosmetologists completed surveys about health problems, including those related to cardiovascular, skin and respiratory health issues. When their responses were compared to women in other occupations, the cosmetologists were at a significantly higher risk of depression. No other associations were statistically significant between cosmetologists and adverse health outcomes.

Health outcomes of children born to cosmetologists compared to children of women in other occupations
The findings indicate that cosmetologists are not at increased risk of having a child with medical problems compared to women in other occupations.

Infertility among cosmetologists
Findings of this study suggest that cosmetologists are not at increased risk for infertility compared to same age women working in other occupations.

Premature ovarian failure among hairdressers
Among Caucasian women 40-55 years of age, hairdressers were more than five times as likely to report premature ovarian failure compared with non-hairdressers.

Video display terminals and the risk of spontaneous abortion
Telephone operators who used video display terminals (VDTs) at work were compared with non-VDT-users; 2,430 women were interviewed. No higher chance of reduced birth weight, preterm birth, or miscarriage was found to be associated with any VDT use during pregnancy.

Work with video display terminals and the risk of reduced birthweight and preterm birth
This study looked at the risk of reduced birthweight and preterm births among workers who used video display terminals (VDTs). The study found workplace use of VDTs was not associated with reduced birthweight or preterm birth.


Circadian rhythm disruption: a chronic occupational hazard among flight attendants?
The study looked at whether female flight attendants were more likely to experience circadian disruption (sleep cycle/circadian rhythm disruption) compared to teachers. Although flight attendants slept longer than teachers, the study found flight attendants experienced lower quality sleep compared to teachers.

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart 6-3 — Labor force participation rates have increased dramatically among mothers over the past 30 years. [Cited on January 29, 2008].
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