Standing Long Hours During Pregnancy May Slow Baby's Growth

By Chelsea Whyte on June 28, 2012 7:40 PM EDT

pregnant at doctor
Women who stand for long periods during pregnancy - like teachers or hairstylists - tend to have smaller babies. (Photo: Creative Commons: Jerry Bunker)

When you're pregnant, spending long hours on your feet can be a pain. And new research shows that it can also affect the growth of your baby.

A study from The Netherlands used ultrasounds to measure the growth rates of fetuses carried by 4680 moms-to-be from early pregnancy until delivery between 2002 and 2006. They found that standing for long periods of time may curb the growth of the fetus.

Midway through their pregnancy, the women were asked about their work conditions and the physical demands of their jobs, including whether these included lifting, long periods of standing or walking, night shifts and long working hours.

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Nearly 4 out of 10 women spent a long time on their feet and almost half of them had to walk for long periods during work. And though heavy lifting was part of the job for just 6 percent of the women, and 4 percent worked night shifts, the data showed that it wasn't physically demanding work or long hours that were consistently associated with the fetus' size.

They found that women who spent long periods on their feet during their pregnancy, in jobs such as sales, childcare, and teaching, had babies whose heads were an average of 1 cm smaller than average at birth, implying a slower growth rate.

Tim Overton from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists told BBC News that "it is very difficult to say if the finding in this study is clinically significant. To see if head size has an effect on the babies' neuro[logical] development you would have to follow them for many years as they grow up."

"There have been studies before that show women who work hard in pregnancy seem to run a higher risk of giving birth to smaller babies. But there is no evidence that this is significant in the long-term health of these babies," Overton said.

Pregnant women should make sure include a combination of sitting, standing and walking in their work day, said Dr. Jill Rabin, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y, according to MSNBC.

"By all means keep working," she added, but said that sitting for prolonged periods may increase the risk of blood clots, and standing for prolonged periods may compromise blood flow to the baby. "That's why you have to mix it up," she said.

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