Study: The affect long-commutes have on pregnant women

The researchers behind the empirical study are the very first to examine the impact of long-distance commutes during pregnancy.

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For most, long, miserable commutes are unavoidable. Ostensibly, the worst of it relates to the careful balance of trying to be productive while attempting to deflect a throng of misplaced elbows and briefcases. However new data published in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology submits more serious consequences of our daily shuttles, specifically for pregnant women.

In fact, the researchers behind the empirical study are the very first to examine the impact of long-distance commutes during pregnancy, finding that the daily amount of maternal stress that is married to so many American’s treks to work, can adversely affect birth health outcomes.


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The shocking impact on appointment frequency

The research comes courtesy of the dual efforts of Lehigh University and The University of Wisconsin-Madison. They began with a sample of women that reported an average work commute distance of 64 miles a day, which worked out to about 74 minutes by car, (though it should be noted that the results pertained primarily to distance as opposed to the time it takes to transverse said distance.) The Census defines a long distance commute as at least 50 miles; in other words, more than 10 miles less than the average distance reported by the study’s participants.

Moreover, despite medical professionals recommending pregnant women get their first checkup under eight weeks, the majority of the pool of women in the new study reported that they didn’t get their first checkup until eleven weeks. Fifteen percent of the participants didn’t get a checkup until after their first trimester and 4% either didn’t get one until after their third trimester, or they didn’t get one at all. This is important because long-distance commutes were found to influence both birth health outcomes and the number of prenatal visits. Adding 10 miles to a long-distance commute was associated with a 2.5% reduction in the number of prenatal appointments.

The specific birth health outcomes

More grimly, an increasing distance of already long commutes by 10 miles was revealed to increase the likelihood of low-birth-weight by 0.9 percentage points and intrauterine growth restriction by 0.6 percentage points. Intrauterine growth is when an unborn baby grows slower than the normal rate inside the womb.

Participants that bore male children were additionally found to increase their likelihood of getting a C-section due to their long commutes.

The study concludes, ” In addition to the maternal stress induced by long commutes being one potential biological mechanism, we find suggestive evidence showing that maternal long commutes during pregnancy are also associated with under-utilization of prenatal care.”


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.