REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND THE WORKPLACE

 

Heat

Exposure to excess heat at work could increase your chances of having a baby with a birth defect or other reproductive problems. Here, you can learn more about heat at work and what you can do to reduce your exposure for a healthier pregnancy.

What is excess heat exposure?

  • If your job causes your body temperature to become higher than 39°C (102.2°F), you may suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or dehydration, which are not good for either you or your developing baby.
  • If you are pregnant, you are more likely to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke sooner than a nonpregnant worker. This is because your body must work harder to cool down both your body and your unborn baby.
  • If you are pregnant, you are also more likely to become dehydrated. This also means you won’t be able to cool yourself as well by sweating.

Why should I be concerned about excess heat exposure?

A mother’s circulation helps protect the developing baby, but in very hot work environments or specific work situations a pregnant woman’s core (internal body) temperature may rise. In some cases, this has been linked to birth defects and other reproductive problems.

Who is exposed to excess heat on the job?

Workers are most commonly exposed to excess heat in:

  • Those who work outdoors
  • Those working in buildings without climate control during hot weather
  • Manufacturing workers, such as those employed in metal fabrication and glass or plastics manufacturing)
  • Healthcare workers who perform diathermy therapy
  • Cooks and dishwashers in commercial kitchens (e.g. restaurants)
  • Fire Fighters

What is not known?

  • We don’t know what causes most birth defects and other reproductive problems. If you are exposed to excess heat on the job and have a baby with a birth defect or other reproductive problems, we often can’t tell if it was caused by heat exposure or if it was caused by something else.
  • We don’t know what level of heat exposure is safe for every person. Follow guidelines and recommendations for your workplace to eliminate or reduce your excess heat exposure as much as possible.

What can I do to reduce or eliminate exposure?

  • Take steps to prevent heat stress, like drinking plenty of fluids and taking breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned area. Avoid hot work environments which do not provide adequate cooling breaks.
  • If you work in a hot environment, talk to your doctor or your workplace safety officer to find out how to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion.
  • In healthcare, the heat from diathermy therapy is created with nonionizing radiation. If you are pregnant and administering diathermy therapy, you may need to consult with your workplace’s safety officer or contact us to find out if your work duties are safe for you.

Where can I get more information?

Learn more about heat stress here.

Page last reviewed: April 20, 2017