We assessed prospectively the impact of length of the work week and job activity on fetal growth. Among 575 women who worked during pregnancy, neither prolonged standing, frequent lifting, or climbing at work, nor a high composite activity score showed an association with fetal growth, as measured by birthweight for gestational age. Long hours of work, however, did reduce fetal growth. Infants of women working long hours late in pregnancy showed decreases in gestation-adjusted birthweight of about 80 gm (95% confidence limits = −238, +74 gm), compared with women working 20 hours or less. When long hours (>40 hours per week) were combined with job activity, the estimated reductions ranged up to 350 gm. At lower weights (≤3,000 gm), categorical analyses showed elevated odds ratios (1.1–1.8) for climbing, lifting, and long hours and for the combination of prolonged standing with a lengthy work week. These results indicate that long weeks of physically demanding work could lead to fetal growth reductions that may be clinically significant. Consistent with this suggestion, infants of women who worked part-time had the highest mean birthweights. Hours of work, not only job tasks, may be important for pregnant workers.
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