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Maternal Occupation May Impact Risk for Birth Defects

Last Updated: December 29, 2009.

Certain occupations may be either positively or negatively associated with one or more birth defects, according to a large population-based case-control study in the January issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

TUESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Certain occupations may be either positively or negatively associated with one or more birth defects, according to a large population-based case-control study in the January issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Michele Herdt-Losavio, Ph.D., of the New York State Department of Health in Troy, and colleagues assessed the association between 24 occupations of pregnant women and 45 birth defects. As part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the researchers evaluated 8,977 single and multiple birth defects and 3,833 control births from October 1997 through December 2003. Phone interviews were conducted and information was assessed using logistic regression models.

The researchers showed that occupations including janitors, scientists and equipment operators were positively linked with one or more birth defects (42 elevated risks of birth defects in offspring), while occupations such as teachers and health care workers were negatively associated with one or more birth defects (12 decreased risks of birth defects in offspring).

"The results of this study indicate that women working as teachers have a significantly reduced risk of giving birth to a child with gastroschisis, neural tube defects, spina bifida or septal heart defects," the authors write. "This paper presents results from analyses on a spectrum of occupations and birth defects for hypothesis generating purposes and presents information useful for guiding future investigations of occupational exposures and birth defects."

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