Objective: To study the associations between physically demanding work and occupational exposure to chemicals and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy within a large birth cohort study, the Generation R Study.
Methods: Associations between occupational characteristics and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy were studied in 4465 pregnant woman participating in a population-based prospective cohort study from early pregnancy onwards in the Netherlands (2002-2006). Mothers who filled out a questionnaire during mid-pregnancy (response 77% of enrolment), were included if they conducted paid employment, had a spontaneously conceived singleton live born pregnancy, and did not suffer from pre-existing hypertension (n = 4465). Questions on physical demanding work were obtained from the Dutch Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and concerned questions on manually handling loads of 25 kg or more, long periods of standing or walking, night shifts, and working hours. To assess occupational exposure to chemicals, job titles and task descriptions were linked to a job-exposure-matrix (JEM), an expert judgment on exposure to chemicals at the workplace. Information on hypertensive disorders during pregnancy was obtained from medical records.
Results: We observed no consistent associations between any of the work related risk factors, such as long periods of standing or walking, heavy lifting, night shifts, and working hours, nor exposure to chemicals with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.
Conclusion: This prospective birth cohort study suggests that there is no association of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy with physically demanding work or exposure to chemicals. However, the low prevalence of PIH and PE, combined with the low prevalence of occupational risk factors limit the power for inference and larger studies are needed to corroborate or refute these findings.