Working conditions in women with multiple pregnancy—the impact on preterm birth and adherence to guidelines: a prospective cohort study

Monique D. M. van Beukering, Marjo J. G. J. van Melick, Ruben G. Duijnhoven, Ewoud Schuit, Sophie L. Liem, Monique H. W. Frings-Dresen, Alouisa J. P. van de Wetering, Marc E. A. Spaanderman, Marjolein Kok, Ben W. Mol

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Background: Women with multiple pregnancies are at risk for maternal complications such as preterm birth. Hazardous working conditions, such as physically demanding work and long and irregular working hours, might increase the risk of preterm birth. Objective: This study primarily aimed to determine whether certain working conditions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy increase the risk of preterm birth in multiple pregnancies. The secondary objective was to evaluate whether the working conditions of Dutch women with multiple pregnancy have been adjusted to the guidelines of the Netherlands Society of Occupational Medicine. Study Design: We performed a prospective cohort study alongside the ProTWIN trial, a multicenter randomized controlled trial that assessed whether cervical pessaries could effectively prevent preterm birth. Women with paid work of >8 hours per week completed questionnaires concerning general health and working conditions between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to identify work-related factors associated with preterm birth (32–36 weeks’ gestation) and very preterm birth (<32 weeks’ gestation). We analyzed a subgroup of participants who worked for more than half of the week (>28 hours). We calculated the proportion of women who reported work-related factors not in accordance with guidelines. Results: We studied 383 women, of whom 168 (44%) had been randomized to pessary, 142 (37%) to care as usual, and 73 (19%) did not participate in the randomized part of the study. After adjusting for confounding variables, working >28 hours was associated with very preterm birth (n=33; 78%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–8.1), and irregular working times were associated with preterm birth (n=26, 17%) (adjusted odds ratio, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–4.1) and very preterm birth (n=10; 24%) (adjusted odds ratio, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–7.3). Within a subgroup of 213 participants working >28 hours per week, multivariable analysis showed that irregular working times (n=16; 20%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.2–10.1) and no/little freedom in performance of tasks (n=23; 28%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–7.3) were associated with preterm birth. Irregular working times (n=9; 27%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.4; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–11.1), requiring physical strength (n=9; 27%) (adjusted odds ratio, 5.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.6–17.8), high physical workload (n=7; 21%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–13.9), and no/little freedom in performing tasks (n=10; 30%) (adjusted odds ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–9.6) were associated with very preterm birth. Before 20 weeks of pregnancy, 224 (58.5%) women with multiple pregnancy continued to work under circumstances that were not in accordance with the guidelines. Conclusion: In our cohort study, nearly 60% of women with multiple pregnancy continued to work under circumstances not in accordance with the guidelines to avoid physical and job strain and long and irregular working hours. Irregular hours were associated with preterm and very preterm birth, and long hours were associated with preterm birth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Early online date12 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Nov 2022


  • job strain
  • maternity protection legislation
  • occupational exposure
  • physical workload
  • shift work
  • working hours

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