Can a Parent’s Job Raise Risk of Birth Defects in Baby?


crying baby

We know that what a mother eats affects her unborn children, and we are beginning to realize that what mothers and fathers do long before conception can affect the health and life of their children as well. But, can a parent’s job affect their unborn child? Research suggests it may [1].

Occupational Hazards Matter

It’s really not surprising that a woman’s career choice can affect her unborn child. In particular, jobs that involve the use of chemicals, radiation, and airborne particles can pose significant risks. While wearing a mask can help to decrease the risk of inhaling airborne dust and particles that could be present in factories and manufacturing facilities, other contaminants require even greater care.

Women who are pregnant should not work around radiation. The Fukishima disaster of 2011, where Japanese nuclear power plants failed following an earthquake and tsunami, could prove to have long-term effects on Japanese generations to come. Such high levels, and possibly even lower levels over time, of radiation can cause birth defects, cancer, and brain development.

Careers where women encounter lead can be similarly risky, potentially causing premature delivery, miscarriage, low birth weight, and developmental problems. Experts suggest women who are at risk for lead exposure—working in the painting, plumbing, auto repair, and battery manufacturing industries—change all of their clothes before coming home, shower at work to leave contaminants behind, and wash work clothes separate from other laundry.

Other jobs, including those that would expose a pregnant woman to household cleansers, solvents, air pollution, arsenic, mercury, and even plastics containing BPA could have unknown effects on the health of your baby, according to the March of Dimes.

What About Dads?

A recent study showed that the job choice of a father can also play a significant role in the risk of birth defects [2]. The research, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at the National Birth Defects Prevention Study to determine the incidence of birth defects when compared with the job of future fathers.

What they found was an increased risk of birth defects in certain job types. They examined the job histories of about 1,000 fathers whose children were born with birth defects and found the following work to contribute to a greater risk:

  • Mathematicians
  • Physicists
  • Computer scientists
  • Artists
  • Photographers and photo processors
  • Food service workers
  • Landscapers
  • Hairdressers and make-up artists
  • Office workers
  • Sawmill workers
  • Gas and petrol workers
  • Those working in the chemical industry
  • Printers
  • Crane operators
  • Diggers
  • Drivers

Causes Are Difficult to Pinpoint

The researchers didn’t delve into what caused these specific jobs to be more dangerous to unborn children. It could be, in the case of photo processors and chemical workers, for example, that they bring home contaminants on their clothing and skin to their wife. But perhaps some of these contaminants are damaging the cellular structure of the sperm as well.

Every choice we make has an effect. We either choose health or illness and disease. This applies to our own health, and obviously, the health of our future children. Whether you are pregnant or considering children in the future, remember that how you spend your days can have an impact on your baby.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Certain jobs dads do linked to higher risk of birth defects (PDF). Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2012 July 17. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2011-100372.
  2. Desrosiers TA, Herring AH, Shapira SK, Hooiveld M, Luben TJ, Herdt-Losavio ML, Lin S, Olshan AF; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Paternal occupation and birth defects: findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Occup Environ Med. 2012 Aug;69(8):534-42. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2011-100372. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

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