Pregnant women with jobs have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. Existing legal rules and guidelines to protect pregnant women are not enforced in half of women with ‘low-risk pregnancies’. For multiple pregnancies, it is almost 60%. This is according to research by corporate physician Monique van Beukering. "These women have a dual job: working and being pregnant. Employers need to do more to ensure the safety of their pregnant employees." Van Beukering has received her doctorate from Amsterdam UMC on December 6, 2022.

The Netherlands has extensive rules and guidelines for working pregnant women. These recommendations were drawn up by company doctors, midwives, gynecologists and experts from the RIVM and the SER. APH and AR&D researcher Van Beukering says: "We know that physically stressful work and long working hours increase the risk of premature birth, for example. Premature birth is the main reason for the death of newborn babies and a major cause of permanent disabilities. That is why these guidelines and laws were created. If pregnant women follow these guidelines, they can safely continue working until their leave. But unfortunately, these guidelines are often not enforced."

Premature Birth

About seven in 100 pregnant women in the Netherlands give birth prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Van Beukering's research shows that the risk of premature birth increases in healthy pregnant women who regularly stand for 3 hours or longer, lift 5 to 10 kilograms or more, or do other physically strenuous work during their work. Ten in 100 of this group of women will experience premature birth. The same risk is faced by pregnant women who work more than 40 hours a week.

Women expecting twins or triplets have a higher risk of premature birth anyway. If these women work more than 28 hours a week or work evening or night shifts, their risk of premature birth is two to three times higher. This risk is compounded if there is work pressure or physical strain. Van Beukering: "These women are dealing with very premature babies. Some give birth before the 32nd week of pregnancy."


Van Beukering's research shows that less than 20% of employers pay attention to working conditions of their pregnant employees. "That really needs to change, for example by referring every pregnant woman to the company doctor early in her pregnancy. In this (preventive) consultation, the risks associated with work are discussed. An early discussion with the company physician prevents employee dropout and complications in pregnancy. Now it is often already too late when women come to the company doctor with complaints. We hope that employers see this added value and will inform more employees that they have the right to a consult with a company physician. Our studies show that urgency."

Advice work adjustment

Finally, Van Beukering advocates a greater role for obstetricians and gynecologists in advising working pregnant women. They see almost all pregnant women early in pregnancy. They can advise their clients to go to the company doctor for advice on work adjustment, or give advice themselves.

Read the original article (in Dutch).