When I was pregnant with my daughter Claire, I asked my pregnant OB-GYN whether or not it was still OK to have a cup of coffee and she said, "Oh, honey, you think I get through these long shifts without coffee?" But if you are working long hours while pregnant, or even a night shift, you might wonder about how the irregular (and lack of) sleep could affect the health of your baby. How vital is regular sleep and can working the night shift cause a miscarriage? Experts say you really shouldn't worry.
It turns out, miscarriages aren't caused by things like working a night shift or even working long hours. "Early pregnancy loss is most commonly caused by several factors related to genetic abnormalities of the fertilized egg, autoimmune disorders, and structural abnormalities of the uterus," Dr. Aaron Styer, the medical director of The Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Boston, tells Romper in an email interview. "There is no evidence to suggest that irregular sleep schedules, fatigue, or working night hours will increase the risk of miscarriage."
But catching enough ZZZs is still important. Experts recommend pregnant women get at least seven hours of shut-eye each night, according to Live Science. One study even found that women who got less than six hours of sleep at night had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to have a C-section. Women with severely disrupted sleep were 5.2 times more likely to have cesarean deliveries.
Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper that while working nights does not increase your risk of miscarriage, smoking and excessive caffeine can cause a slight increased risk of pregnancy loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking during pregnancy causes additional health problems, including premature birth, certain birth defects — like cleft lip or palate — and infant death. As for caffeine, experts recommend keeping it at about 200 milligrams per day to avoid increased miscarriage risk.
Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, points out to Romper that while a night shift may not cause miscarriage, it may make it difficult to conceive because lack of sleep increases cortisol levels, a stress hormone that may prevent ovulation.
Of course, balancing work while pregnant is sometimes easier said than done, especially when it comes to squeezing in appointments with your doctor, managing symptoms at work, finding time to relax, and scheduling maternity leave, according to Parents. Be sure to pack snacks and water to help ease morning sickness while at your desk, as well as a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, face towelettes, and even an aromatherapy spray to help your mood in the event that you do get sick, according to Verywell.
Whether you are pregnant or not, it's also important to stick with a schedule in order to achieve optimal rest, even on days you don't work the night shift, according to U.S. News. "Anytime you lose or break routine, you might be battling to retain it again," Tina Waters, a sleep specialist with the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, noted in the article. This can be difficult when you are trying to navigate life as a night owl, especially when you have "normal" daytime obligations, like a birthday celebration or meeting a friend for lunch. But consistency will make heading to work after hours feel less taxing, especially when you are also growing a tiny human.
If you have concerns about working during pregnancy, including the night shift, then be sure to address them with your healthcare provider. After all, the health of you and your little one takes top priority throughout your pregnancy — no matter the time.
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