Click here to learn about the impact that occupation can have on fertility and pregnancy, as exhibited by a recent study conducted on female surgeons.
In addition to other lifestyle factors, like smoking and drinking, occupational hazards can contribute to fertility challenges. While typically these occupational hazards typically pertain to exposure to toxic chemicals, other studies are coming out highlighting specific challenges around specific jobs. A recent study came out that suggested that female surgeons are at greater risk for infertility and pregnancy loss.
These effects of these lifestyle factors are not restricted to women. For example, for men, a study showed that men who experience two or more stressful events in a year displayed a decreased percentage of sperm motility along with more abnormal sperm.
The factors thought to impact pregnancy complications experienced by female surgeons are lack of paid leave, delayed pregnancy until after training, and long work hours during pregnancy. In a survey of 850 surgeons, 692 women, and 158 men, 42% of female surgeons reported a pregnancy loss and 75% took no time off work.
In contrast to the 42%, the U.S. Department of Health reports that on average, 10-15% of confirmed pregnancies are lost. Of the women surveyed, half experienced major pregnancy complications. The surgeons most at risk for pregnancy complications were those who were working 12+ hours a week through their final trimester, showing the impacts of stress, lack of sleep, and little access to food and water during the workday.
While the national median age for women to give birth was 30, the average for female surgeons is 33. Age has an impact on fertility, but even so, about one-quarter of female surgeons use assisted reproductive technology like IVF., a noticeable number considering that 2% of infants born in the U.S. each year are conceived from assisted reproductive technology.
Working in the medical field, especially as a surgeon, requires grueling hours of very focused work. This study generally exhibits the tradeoff between occupation and fertility, but more specifically the importance of a culture change to better support female surgeons.
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