What is a reproductive hazard?

A hazard is an agent that has the potential to cause harm to a person. A ‘reproductive’ hazard is an agent that can interfere with a woman’s or a man’s ability to conceive a baby or harm the developing fetus during the pregnancy. Hazardous agents are found inside and outside of the workplace. Examples include cigarette smoke, xrays and car exhaust. Examples of reproductive problems caused by hazardous agents include infertility, miscarriage, premature labour, low birth-weight and fetal malformations.

Why are pregnant workers at greater risk to hazards?

A pregnant woman’s body undergoes changes that can make her more susceptible to workplace hazards. Some key changes and associated
risks include:

  • Circulatory: Higher heart rates (especially during physical activity)
    increasing chances of water loss, heat stress, swelling and
  • Airway: Larger amounts of air breathed into and out of the lung
    per minute, increasing the number of toxins inhaled during pregnancy.
  • Hormonal: Higher female sex hormones causes ligaments, tendons
    and other connective tissues to soften, increasing risk of
    injury, particularly for tasks that stretch joints.
  • Anatomical: Expanding uterus increases strain on the back and
    decreases blood flow to the legs and may also pinch the sciatic
    nerve. Work-related physical tasks, prolonged sitting and standing
    further increase these risks.
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