Teachers don't get many perks, but a new study suggests that female teachers might just get a hidden bonus from their occupation. According to research published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, teachers have the lowest risk of having children with birth defects.  

The study, using data from more than 9,000 mothers across the U.S. who gave birth between October 1997 and December 2003, found that depending on a mother's occupation, a fetus would be more or less at risk of developing any one of 45 physical defects that are not DNA-related. 

The women in the study were divided into 24 occupational categories, such as office workers, dry cleaners, hairdressers, public servants, office workers, and those in manufacturing, and were compared with a control group of almost 4,000 mothers whose children did not have defects. 

The researchers then focused on those who were working during the first trimester — what's known as the critical period, when birth defects are more likely to begin in a fetus. Researchers did control for factors like smoking and alcohol consumption.

According to the study, women working as janitors faced the highest risk of giving birth to children with certain defects, while teachers faced the lowest risk. Another high-risk occupation? Women who work as biological and chemical scientists and pharmacists ... in other words ... the same women who are trying to figure out why babies are born with birth defects.

The study's researchers said they will conduct a follow-up study that focuses on those occupations with the most interesting results — such as scientists, janitors and teachers — to try to find out if there are particular environmental factors that affect risk levels.

Photo: ms. ellemvee

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