Even with the special privileges and acts of kindness afforded to pregnant women, working the whole day with a tiny human inside you can be exhausting. It’s especially harder if you have to travel a lengthy distance to go to and from your workplace, and according to a new study done in the United States, this can actually affect the health of your baby.
The study, published in the journal Economics & Human Biology suggests that pregnant women who commute at least 50 miles or roughly 80 kilometers to work every day (riding cars included) may be at a “much greater risk” of having low birth weight babies as well as fetuses with intrauterine growth restriction, a condition where the fetus does not grow as fast and is smaller than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy, according to Stanford Children's Health. This condition is generally associated with mothers who have diabetes, high blood pressure, malnutrition or infections.
The risk also seems to grow for every additional 10 miles (roughly 16 km) traveled. The probability of a low birth weight increases by 0.9% while the probability of intrauterine growth restriction grows by 0.6%.
While this study was done in the U.S. and observed a population of pregnant commuters in New Jersey (it known for having the “longest commute times in the nation,” according to The New York Times), preggy Pinays can relate, at least with the traffic that often makes the commute long. Some pregnant working women have to commute two to five hours just to get to work, as Metro Manila has the third worst traffic in Southeast Asia, according to a 2017 survey done by Boston Consulting Group. Pinoys get stuck in traffic at an average of 66 minutes daily with an additional 24 minutes spent searching for parking.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lehigh University, who led the study, did not conclude what might be causing these increased risks, but they did find that the long journeys affected the odds of moms getting proper prenatal care. Moms who commuted long distances to work were more likely to miss doctor appointments and delay treatment throughout their pregnancies. Fifteen percent of them actually skipped their first prenatal checkup or delayed their first prenatal visit up to the third trimester.
Maternal stress was also intensified by traveling long distances, researchers noted, which could have affected the adverse outcomes. And we already know that stress can have negative effects on our babies, including neurodevelopmental and emotional problems in the future.
Long commutes affect every Filipino
Long commutes affect us all. It can cause weight gain, neck and back pain, and added stress. So, just imagine how extra taxing traveling is for pregnant women who must bear with additional changes, aches, and pains that come with their condition.
While the study does not conclude that you’ll encounter pregnancy complications due to the lengthy commutes, it may inspire employers to provide more alternatives for working pregnant women, including remote work and early maternity leave. These additional benefits are important when it comes to keeping employees with growing families, as moms already find it “emotionally difficult” to leave their children at home while they work. If the job can be done from anywhere, shouldn’t telecommuting (the ‘work-from-home’ bill was actually signed into law in January 2019) be an option?