This study examined the association of physical exertion and spontaneous abortion in a case-control study of 607 women whose pregnancies ended in spontaneous abortion and 1,287 women who delivered livebirths in Santa Clara County, CA, in 1986 and 1987. We interviewed women about the number of hours they spent doing heavy housework and caring for young children. We also interviewed women employed during their pregnancies (71% in each group) about their work schedule; the number of hours they worked, stood, commuted, and stooped or bent; and the number of times per day they lifted weights of >15 pounds. Standing >8 hours per day at work was the only variable associated with increased risk [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.6; 95% confidence limits (CL) = 1.1, 2.3]. This association was present only for women with a history of spontaneous abortion (adjusted OR = 2.8; 95% CL = 1.4, 5.9). Among women with this history, the OR for a second trimester abortion was 4.9 (95% CL = 1.9, 12.2). Cleaning house for >7 hours per week or caring for young children for >50 hours per week was associated with decreased risk (adjusted OR = 0.6, 95% CL = 0.5, 0.9; adjusted OR = 0.8, 95% CL = 0.6, 1.0, respectively). Again, these associations were specific to women with a history of spontaneous abortion (adjusted OR = 0.4, 95% CL = 0.2, 0.7; adjusted OR = 0.5, 95% CL = 0.3, 0.8). These results indicate that the specific type of physical exertion, the amount of exertion, and the context of the exertion may be important.
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