No Smoking in Pregnancy
Moms-to-be are often told by doctors to avoid smoking while pregnant, but what about avoiding work? A new study published in the July edition of the Journal of Labour Economics suggests the effect of working during late stages of pregnancy is similar to the effect of smoking while pregnant when it comes to a baby’s weight.
Authors Marco Francesconi, Emilia Del Bono and John Ermisch found a positive consequence of women who stop working up to two months before birth as compared with women who work into the ninth month. The women who stopped work earlier had babies who weighed around half a pound more than the babies of women who stopped later.
The University of Essex research was drawn from thousands of participants in two national surveys in the U.K. and one in the U.S. They show that the positive effect of leaving work up to two months before birth was especially significant in British children, which the authors say points to the role played by longer maternity leaves in Britain over the sample period.
This is significant because a lower birth weight can lead to future health problems such as slow development. Low birth rate has even been linked with negative future outcomes for children, such as lower chances of completing school successfully, lower wages in a job and higher mortality (though this is not necessarily a causal link).
One exception was that mothers under 24 years of age who continued working into the ninth month did not have babies that weighed significantly less.
The British Household Panel Survey, one of the studies from which this paper drew its data, spanned from 1991 to 2005. The study showed a trend that women today are working longer into pregnancy than they did in the past. Sixteen per cent of those who responded circa 1991 worked up to within one month of the birth versus 30 per cent of women who gave birth in 2000 and 2001.