Heavy Lifting Linked to Trouble Conceiving


In a study released by Harvard in August 2015, it is suggested that working longer hours and engaging in heavy lifting while trying to conceive a baby could cause delayed conception. The research was published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine and it followed 1,740 nurses who were trying to get pregnant.

The authors of the study estimated that 16 percent of the nurses didn’t become pregnant within a year and 5 percent were still unable to conceive after twenty-four months.

The Study:

Researchers linked those who worked more than 40 hours a week to a pregnancy that was delayed by up to 20 percent longer than in women who worked between 21 and 40 hours weekly. It was also found that females who lifted or moved more than 25 lbs., several times daily was associated with delayed pregnancy, meaning it could take her up to 50 percent longer to become pregnant.

The authors picked the study participants, all of who were at least 33 years old, from a 2010-2014 nationwide survey of nurses who at some point reported difficulty conceiving a baby. Forty-four percent of the participants were overweight and 22 percent were current or former tobacco smokers, two factors that are known to have an impact on conception rates.

While the results of the study may be concerning to women trying to conceive, it’s important to remember the study was linked specifically to nurses with some specifically confounding factors and more importantly, it was observational and not a physical study.

Even with all this research not being totally conclusive, there may be some truth to the situation.
When a woman works a lot of hours, it can create high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Having high levels of cortisol may be due to not only the physical stresses and strains of working and excessive exercise, but it can also lead to negative stresses. This would create a scenario where it’s possible a woman may experience irregular ovulation which is a risk factor for infertility.

The team knew this going into the study, so even when the excluded women had irregular menstrual cycles, they noticed heavy lifting was still linked to a 33 percent increase in the time it took for a woman to conceive.

Even though there may be some valid points to this study, it is important to remember that it is not the lifting that is directly related to difficulty in conceiving, but rather the physical, strenuous activity of lifting heavy things for hours and hours. This is a very common occurrence in women who work the late shift.

Within the study group, the participants worked days or nights and 16 percent of them had swing shifts. Researchers also noted that one-third of women reported being on their feet for eight or more hours per day and 40 percent of them said they lifted heavy objects or items up to five or more times daily.


The researchers recommend that any woman working in a heavy lifting occupation such as nursing or food service should have a pre-pregnancy exam. These tests can help them find out if they can successfully conceive from the start or whether they may need to explore alternative options to help them become pregnant.


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