A new study has drawn some disturbing conclusions about the dangers of nursing while pregnant - particular for nurses who are exposed to chemotherapy drugs, sterilizing chemicals, or x-rays.
According to the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. nurses who worked with chemotherapy drugs or sterilizing chemicals were twice as likely to have a miscarriage as nurses who did not handle these solutions. Nurses who performed X-rays had a slightly higher risk of miscarriage too, about thirty percent larger than nurses who didn't work with X-rays.
For the study, researchers surveyed nearly 7,500 nurses who had been pregnant between 1993 and 2002. They asked the nurses to indicate when and how often they worked with certain chemicals and/or X-ray equipment over the course of their pregnancies.
The study found that 1 out of every 10 nurses experienced a miscarriage before she reached 20-weeks into her pregnancy. Surprisingly, this number is similar to the rate of miscarriages for all women in the U.S. But when researchers specifically looked at women who handled chemotherapy drugs for more than an hour a day, that rate was double - about 2 out of every 10 nurses lost her pregnancy. Nurses who handled sterilizing agents, such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde, more than an hour a day also had a doubled risk of miscarriage.
This may be bad news for the two million female nurses in the United States who currently make up about four percent of the female workforce. But the study's authors caution that nurses aren't the only ones exposed to these types of chemicals and situations. Pharmacists, drug manufacturers and veterinarians also handle these materials.
Bottom line: If you are a pregnant nurse working with chemo drugs, sterilization chemicals, or X-rays, talk to your supervisor and your health care provider about making sure you and your baby stay safe.