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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Study: Long Commutes Are Risky For Pregnant Women

In a new study published earlier this year, researchers at Lehigh University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a link between the distance a woman travels to work every day while pregnant and the health outcomes for her child, including low birth weight, the likelihood of a C-section, and intrauterine growth restriction, or when a baby doesn’t reach a normal size as measured throughout the pregnancy. While previous research has examined how the distance between a woman’s home and her doctor’s office affects the health of her child, this is the first to home in on the daily travel of pregnant women’s commutes.

For pregnant workers who already travel at least 50 miles to work—the Census definition of a long-distance commute—increasing the distance by 10 miles raises the likelihood of low birth weight and intrauterine growth restriction by 0.9 and 0.6 percentage points, respectively. Commuting these kinds of distances every day also increases the likelihood that those carrying a male fetus will deliver via cesarean section (male fetuses have been shown to be more sensitive during pregnancy.)

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