Aim: The authors sought to describe risk indicators of long-term sick leave during pregnancy among hospital employees.
Methods: A register-based study was undertaken of 4,852 female hospital employees aged 20-45 years from the second largest hospital in Denmark during 1995-99 based on job titles, working time, sick leave, and births combined with a survey among a total of 773 women who had been pregnant during their employment (response rate 85%).
Results: Altogether 236 (31%) were on sick leave for at least 10% of their scheduled work time during their latest pregnancy and 169 (22%) had been absent at least 20% of the time. The pregnant women had an average sickness absence of 6.1 days per month, non-pregnant women 0.95 days per month. Sick leave was more frequent in late than in early gestation. Women employed as nursing aides or hospital orderlies, launderers, and nurses had more sick leave days than other hospital employees. Part-time work, previous sickness absence not related to pregnancy, and previous chronic back pain were risk factors for long-term sick leave as were much walking or standing, long working days, high work level, little practical support from supervisors and colleagues, low job control, much lifting and night or shift work. Sick leave was unrelated to family size, support from the family and number of working years.
Conclusion: Long-term sick leave during pregnancy was frequent and to some extent predictable. Efforts should be made to organize work for pregnant women in a manner that optimizes their health and well-being.