Working mums have healthier babies than homemakers says major new Irish study
According to brand new research conducted here in Ireland, women in paid employment have better outcomes in pregnancy and improved lifestyle behaviours during it compared to homemakers.
In an observational study of more than 62.000 Irish women, researchers from UCD and the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital found that women who were unemployed or homemakers had higher incidences of low birth weight and size, and their babies were more likely to be admitted to the neonatal unit, than women in paid employment.
As well as this, the study, which consisted of 62.000 women who gave birth at the Coombe and spanned seven years from 2010 and 2017, revealed that the unemployed and homemaker cohorts were less likely to plan their pregnancy and to take folic acid before conception, and more likely to continue smoking and use illicit drugs during pregnancy.
What surprised the researchers was that the study challenges previous results and assumptions that homemakers provide the best scenario for desired foetal development.
And that even after adjusting for continued adverse lifestyle behaviours during pregnancy, the association with adverse outcomes persisted.
“In some cases, such as those working in factories, mining and construction this may be true, however, we found that when comparing women in paid employment as a whole to homemakers, these women had not only improved pregnancy outcomes but also improved lifestyle and pregnancy-related behaviours.”
The findings of the study might not be as surprising when it comes to the link between unemployment and poorer pregnancy outcomes, but there is no denying that the Irish research sheds new light on outcomes for homemaker women.
“It does suggest that, depending on the type, work can be good for you, in terms of pregnancy outcomes,” says Prof Michael Turner of UCD’s Centre for Human Reproduction. “It brings in income to provide for you and your family; you eat better, exercise more and may be able to employ carers for other children.”
“Society may need to see what it can do to increase maternal employment,” Prof Turner says, also adding that this question is particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic, as unemployment, including female unemployment, is increasing again.