Objectives Recent studies suggest that shift workers who experience exposure to light at night could be at increased risk for adverse reproductive outcomes.
Method Defined by cyclical patterns of circulating hormones, the reproductive system is vulnerable to shifts in circadian rhythms, either through sleep disturbances, altered melatonin production, exposure to light at night, or some other mechanism. Several occupational groups, including health care workers, law enforcement, firefighters, and manufacturing workers are required to work night shifts. Worldwide, millions work at least one night per month.
Results Research will be reviewed on shift work and reproductive outcomes, including menstrual cycle patterns, fertility, pregnancy loss, preterm delivery, and birth weight. The limitations of current research will also be discussed: is there a dose response effect from the number of years of shift work, or can the effects be reversed once shift work stops? Are there different effects from permanent night shift versus rotating shift involving nights?
Conclusions Future research needs will be identified, including the need for validation of self-reported shift work data and the mechanisms by which shift work affects reproductive health. Recommendations for shift workers and employers will be explored.
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