The risk of miscarriage or stillbirth doubled after a pregnant woman or her partner lost a job, European researchers found. Photo by lisa runnels
A new study suggests there may be a link between job loss and miscarriage or stillbirth.
The risk of miscarriage or stillbirth doubled after a pregnant woman or her partner lost a job, European researchers found. Their study was published Thursday in the journal Human Reproduction.
"Further research would need to be carried out to understand if losing one's job actually causes the increased risk of pregnancy loss," said author Selin Köksal, senior research officer at the University of Essex Institute for Social and Economic Research in England.
She said it would be helpful to look at different socioeconomic groups to assess exactly how a job loss relates to higher risk of a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
"Is it because of economic hardship, or an experience of an unexpected event or is it due to loss of social status?" Köksal said in a journal news release. "These are the questions that I am hoping to answer in the future."
For this study, the researchers used data from a survey of 40,000 U.K. households conducted between 2009 and 2022. The data included more than 8,000 pregnancies for which there was information on date of conception and outcome.
Overall, 11.6% ended in miscarriage, though the number is likely higher because many pregnancies are lost before women realize they're expecting. Researchers also found 38 stillbirths, representing 0.5% of conceptions.
Of 136 women who were affected by their own or their partner's job loss, 23.5% miscarried and one, 0.7%, had a stillbirth. Among the more than 8,000 women who were not affected by job loss, 10.4% miscarried and 0.5% had a stillbirth.
"The reasons for these associations may be related to stress, reduced access to prenatal care, or changes in lifestyle," said co-author Alessandro Di Nallo of the Dondena Center for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy in Milan, Italy.
Di Nallo noted that his previous research found the likelihood of having kids drops after a job loss. It may be because people postpone having children, but it could also be due to other reasons, he said.
"Stress results in a physiological response, releasing hormones that are known to increase the risk of miscarriage or premature delivery," Di Nallo said in the release. "The reduction in income following a job loss could restrict access and compliance with prenatal care, so that at-risk pregnancies are discovered late or are undetected. In addition, the emotional discomfort of job loss could prompt unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, smoking or unhealthy eating."
Köksal pointed to the importance of raising awareness about women's legal rights in the workplace during pregnancy. Getting mental health support during pregnancy through the public health system is important regardless of women's and their partner's job status, she said.
She suggested policymakers consider extending job protections to workers whose partners are pregnant and not just to pregnant women themselves.
"Additionally, it makes sense to increase economic support for individuals -- and their partners -- who lose their jobs because the lack of economic support is shown to be one of the main causes of stress and personal distress, which can eventually increase the risk of pregnancy loss," Köksal said.
Researchers only found an association in this study, noting that pregnancy and job loss were self-reported in the survey and that other factors may be correlated with both pregnancy and job loss. Researchers also do not know if the findings hold true for different socioeconomic groups.
The U.S. Office of Women's Health has more on pregnancy loss.
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