Reproductive Health and The Workplace

About Reproductive Health in the Workplace

Key points

  • Workplace exposures, conditions, and tasks can affect workers' sexual and reproductive health.
  • Some workplace hazards can affect workers' sex hormones, their fertility, the health of their unborn children, and their children's healthy development.
  • Learn how employers and workers can reduce reproductive hazards in the workplace.
Pregnant healthcare worker reading a chart on a clipboard.


Diverse group of male and female workers.
Reproductive hazards matter all the time, for all workers.

Many things can impact sexual and reproductive health, including hazards in the workplace. Some workplace hazards can affect a worker's:

  • Sex hormones
  • Fertility
  • Health of unborn children
  • Children's development

Whether a worker is considering having children now or not, reproductive hazards matter all the time, for all workers.

Many chemicals in the workplace haven't been fully tested to see if they can cause reproductive problems.

Work can impact family health

Workers can carry chemicals home on their skin, hair, clothes, and shoes. Some of these can harm the health of children and other people in the household. Some chemicals can also concentrate in semen, so can cause exposure to a sexual partner and affect their health.

Breastfeeding is very good for babies' health, and most working mothers can safely breastfeed their babies. Although not common, there are some chemicals that can get into breast milk and possibly harm a baby. These include lead and other heavy metals and some radioactive isotopes used in hospitals for radiation therapy, like Iodine-131. People who are breastfeeding and work with these chemicals should talk with their doctors about how to safely breastfeed.

Work can impact hormone and sexual function

Sexual function and fertility can be affected by workplace hazards regardless of a worker's gender or reproductive stage. Hazards that affect sex hormones can have wide-ranging effects on a person's overall health. Sperm, semen, or menstrual cycles can also be affected by workplace hazards.

Work can impact pregnancy

Changes in a pregnant person's metabolism increase how quickly they absorb some chemicals (e.g. some metals).

Because of physical changes, personal protective equipment (like lab coats or respirators) might stop fitting a pregnant person properly.

Pregnancy causes changes in the immune system and lungs that can alter a person's risk of workplace illness.

Pregnancy causes changes in the ligaments, and changing body size and shape changes a person's posture. This could alter a worker's risk of injuries at work.

A fetus might be more vulnerable to some chemicals because of its rapid growth and development, especially early in pregnancy. Exposure to some workplace hazards during pregnancy has been linked to:

  • Babies born too soon or too small
  • Birth defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Other adverse pregnancy outcomes

How workers are exposed

Chemical hazards at work

Chemicals at work can enter workers' body in three ways:

  • In the air
  • Through skin contact, especially if the skin is not intact
  • By ingesting (swallowing)

Whether or not a chemical exposure causes health problems depends on:

  • What the chemical is
  • How the chemical enters the body
  • How long or how often a person is exposed to the chemical
  • How much of the chemical a person is exposed to
  • How each person reacts to the chemical

Other workplace hazards

Some job exposures are not chemicals, but they may still affect workers' reproductive health. Some examples of these exposures are:

What workers can do

Even if your job involves some hazards, there are things you can do to protect yourself and stay safe at work. Some actions include:

What employers can do

Employers can help keep workers and their families safe by taking steps to protect them from reproductive hazards.

Learn more about workplace reproductive hazards

Read about examples of jobs and associated reproductive hazards.

Learn about specific hazards and your reproductive health.