Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2020;46(1):60-68    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3840 | Published online: 27 Jun 2019, Issue date: 01 Jan 2020

The influence of multiple occupational exposures on absence from work in pregnancy: a prospective cohort study

by Sejbaek CS, Pedersen J, Schlünssen V, Begtrup LM, Juhl M, Bonde JP, Kristensen P, Bay H, Ramlau-Hansen CH, Hougaard KS

Objectives Many women experience absence periods from work during pregnancy. Several single risk factors for absence are identified, whereas the impact of multiple concurrent exposures has been sparsely studied. We hypothesized that the presence of multiple occupational exposures would be associated with an increased risk of absence from work during pregnancy.

Methods We included women from the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996–2002), pregnant with one child and working ≥30 hours/week at interview (mean gestational week 17 (standard deviation 4.0); N=50 142). Information about five occupational exposures (job demands, job control, work posture, work shift, lifting) were retrieved from the interview, each assigned values of 0/1, and summed into an index (0–5). The woman’s first absence from work (both regular and related to pregnancy) after the interview was available from a nationwide administrative register. We analyzed data with Cox regression using gestational age as the underlying time-variable.

Results Few women experienced none of the occupational exposures (3.6%) and most experienced two exposures (34.7%). Only 24.3% of the women were absent from work before gestational week 31. The number of occupational exposures was associated with an increasing risk of absence. The adjusted hazard ratio for absence increased from 1.3 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–1.5] for one exposure to 2.9 (95% CI 2.5–3.3) for four to five exposures compared to no occupational exposure.

Conclusion The higher the number of potentially adverse occupational exposures pregnant women experienced, the higher the risk for absence from work during pregnancy.

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