How Reproductive Hazards Can Affect Your Health

Due to the nature of the female reproductive system, exposures that may impact your fertility, may also impact your health in general.

The female reproductive system can be divided into the reproductive health of the woman and the wellbeing of her pregnancy and baby. This section addresses the reproductive health of the woman, herself. We address how a woman’s job can affect pregnancy, breastfeeding and family health elsewhere.

Female health problems that may be caused by workplace reproductive hazards

  • Disruption of the menstrual cycle and hormone production

    High levels of physical or emotional stress or exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organic solvents and carbon disulfide, may disrupt the balance between the brain, pituitary gland, and ovaries. This disruption can result in an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, and lead to changes in menstrual cycle length and regularity and ovulation. Learn more about the female reproductive system to better understand why this is important.

  • Infertility and subfertility

    About 10% to 15% of all couples are infertile or have subfertility, which means that they are unable to conceive a child after 1 year of trying to become pregnant. Many factors can affect fertility, and these factors can affect one or both partners. More common causes of infertility include:

    • Damage to the woman’s eggs
    • Damage to the man’s sperm
    • A change in the hormones needed to regulate the normal menstrual cycle and uterine growth
  • Other health problems

    Even if you are not concerned about having menstrual cycles or are not trying to get pregnant, your general health can be harmed by reproductive hazards that alter the production of your sex hormones. These sex hormones have effects throughout a woman’s body. Some workplace exposures can cause an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels in your blood. This disruption can also leave you more vulnerable to:

    • Some cancers, such as endometrial or breast cancer
    • Osteoporosis
    • Heart disease
    • Tissue loss or weakening
    • Effects on the brain and spinal cord, including symptoms of menopause

    Learn more about the female reproductive system to better understand how sex hormones can impact your general health.

Reproductive effects can vary among female workers

Reproductive hazards do not affect every woman or every pregnancy. Whether you are affected and the degree to which you or your baby may be harmed depends on different factors:

  • The type of hazard
  • How long you are exposed
  • How much of the hazard you are exposed to
  • How you are exposed
  • Personal factors, like your age, stage of menstrual cycle, stage of pregnancy or when you are exposed

For example, exposure to a hazard could block ovulation and pregnancy only at specific times of the menstrual cycle. Exposure during the first 3 months of pregnancy might cause a birth defect or a miscarriage. Exposure during the last 6 months of pregnancy could slow the baby’s growth, affect its brain development, or cause premature labor.

What you can do

Learn what you can do about reproductive hazards in the workplace:

Learn more about how your job can affect pregnancy, breastfeeding and your family’s health.

Related Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Public Health Action Plan for the Detection, Prevention and Management of Infertility