A new research has linked odd working hours among pregnant women to lower birth weight for babies.
The study which was done by researchers at the University of Adelaide, Australia, suggests that women who do shift work during pregnancy are at greater risk of having underweight babies.
The study revealed that these schedules disrupt circadian rhythms and results in poor sleep. Shift work that requires people to alternately work days and nights disrupts their body’s internal clock, which in turn throws off sleep schedule and metabolism, it said.
Poor sleep in turn disrupts a woman’s metabolism and may alter the nutrition she passes to her baby. The blood sugar level of pregnant women needs to be stable in order for their developing babies to get adequate nutrition to grow to healthy sizes. The study says it may also cause babies to be smaller and more vulnerable to infection and breathing problems
When researchers at the University of Adelaide and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute put pregnant sheep on the same waking and sleep schedule shift-working women might keep, they had smaller lambs according to Mail Online.
The study revealed that even if you always work nights – rather than more irregular non-standard hours – this still keeps you from sleeping when the human body is meant to sleep.
“Everything that happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy, including keeping odd hours, has the potential to affect the foetus.
“The scientists saw that sheep who were made to sleep and eat on a shift-work schedule made pregnant sheep – like humans – more intolerant to gluten, a risk factor for diabetes and obesity later in life,” the report said.
They found that not being able to properly process glucose may also prevent the essential blood sugars from being transferred to foetus, resulting in a lower birth weight.
In the new research, published in the Journal of Physiology, the researchers found that even if a sheep was taken off the shift schedule after her first trimester, her offspring were still more likely to be relatively small.
“The effects of shift work on pregnancy are not well understood. We found that exposure to rotating night and day shifts, even if only in pregnancy, altered both maternal metabolic and pregnancy outcomes,” said lead study author, Dr. Kathy Gatford, a Reproductive Health Professor at the University of Adelaide.