FIFO raises preg­nancy stress: study

North West Telegraph - - News - Joanna Delalande

Preg­nant part­ners of fly-in, fly-out work­ers ex­pe­ri­ence higher lev­els of stress than women whose part­ners do reg­u­lar shift work, ac­cord­ing to new re­search, and the cor­re­la­tion could have dam­ag­ing ef­fects on un­born chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ment.

The Curtin Univer­sity re­search, pub­lished in the Women and Birth Jour­nal, found preg­nant women ex­hib­ited in­creased lev­els of stress when their part­ners worked on a high-com­pres­sion ros­ter of three weeks away and one week at home.

Co-author Dr Garth Ken­dall said women were vul­ner­a­ble to the ef­fects of stress dur­ing preg­nancy and the ab­sence of a part­ner could be an ad­di­tional risk to their well­be­ing.

“We an­a­lysed 394 fam­i­lies in­clud­ing FIFO work­ers, non-FIFO reg­u­lar sched­ule work­ers, and non-FIFO ir­reg­u­lar sched­ule work­ers to de­ter­mine whether there was an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween preg­nant women’s re­port of stress and their part­ners work­ing away,” he said.

“We found that preg­nant part­ners of FIFO work­ers per­ceived their lives to be more stress­ful than women whose part­ner works non-FIFO reg­u­lar sched­ules, espe­cially when their part­ner worked away for longer pe­ri­ods of time with shorter breaks in be­tween.”

Dr Ken­dall said the re­search had im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions for the health and well­be­ing of preg­nant women whose part­ners spent time away, as it was likely to have longterm health con­se­quences for both the mother and child.

“A great deal of time spent alone and be­ing sep­a­rated from one’s part­ner may be a bar­rier to the for­ma­tion of trust­ing, re­cip­ro­cal re­la­tion­ships that are espe­cially im­por­tant for the men­tal health of preg­nant women,” he said.

“Our find­ings sug­gest the per­ceived eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the work ar­range­ments are pos­si­bly over­shad­owed by the po­ten­tial neg­a­tive con­se­quences for fam­i­lies.”

He said high lev­els of stress and anx­i­ety of­ten led to a range of other health and be­havioural is­sues that could af­fect the de­vel­op­ment of the child.

“Peo­ple who are stressed are more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sion and post-natal de­pres­sion,” and are also more likely to be in­volved in un­healthy life­style be­hav­iours such as smok­ing, drink­ing or eat­ing highly pro­cessed food to deal with the neg­a­tive feel­ings,” Dr Ken­dall said.

“There is also a po­ten­tial for women’s cor­ti­sol to go up, and this hor­mone cir­cu­lat­ing through their bod­ies is likely to im­pact on the de­vel­op­ment of the un­born child’s stress re­sponse.”

Dr Ken­dall said it was im­por­tant for preg­nant women to seek emo­tional sup­port from fam­ily and friends, par­tic­u­larly if their part­ners were of­ten ab­sent.

“Women who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sig­nif­i­cant stress and have real con­cerns should also see a health pro­fes­sional,” he said.

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