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Is Your Occupation Harming Your Fertility?


Recently, a new study by JAMA Surgery has revealed that female surgeons are more at risk of fertility issues due to medical hazards in operating rooms. A survey of over 1,000 U.S. female surgeons discovered that 32 percent had difficulty with fertility, compared to 10.9 percent in the general populations. Prior to this study, it was assumed that the professions’ stress level caused this disparity. But while we know that high stress levels can certainly damage hormonal balance, this analysis points to exposure to radiation, anesthetic gases, and other toxic substances as the culprits. 

Beyond the concern this raises for certain medical professions, this study is relevant to the entire population because it indicates a behavioral—and specifically occupational—influence on fertility. But Dr. Winnifred Cutler’s research has shown behavioral effects on fertility for years. While you may not be a surgeon or in the medical field, there is one common behavioral effect on fertility that every woman should be aware of: Sexual behavior frequency may be harming the balance of your menstrual cycle.  But sexual activity can also be used to your advantage. Specifically, in Dr. Cutler’s study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, women who had regular weekly sexual intercourse experienced regular menstrual cycles of 29 days, while women with more sporadic sexual activity tended to have extreme cycle lengths. As a result, we propose that women who want to get pregnant now or in the future maintain a regular sex life with a committed partner to improve their chances of conception. 

Whether it’s workplace risks or sexual activity, all women should educate themselves about the effects that their everyday behaviors may have on their reproductive health, because fertility is about more than just uncontrollable factors like genetics and good luck.