Open Access Research article

Long working hours and pregnancy complications: women physicians survey in Japan

Masumi Takeuchi1, Mahbubur Rahman2, Aya Ishiguro3 and Kyoko Nomura13*

Author Affiliations

1 Teikyo University Support Center for Women Physicians and Researchers, 2-11-1 Kaga, Itabashi-ku 173-8605 Tokyo, Japan

2 Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, Texas 77555, USA

3 Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Teikyo University School of Medicine, 2-11-1 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8605, Japan

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:245  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-245

Published: 23 July 2014



Previous studies have investigated the impact of occupational risk factors on health outcomes among physicians. However, few studies have investigated the effects on pregnancy outcomes among physicians. In this study, we examined the association between working hours during pregnancy and pregnancy complications among physicians.


A cross-sectional study was based on a survey conducted in 2009-2011 of 1,684 alumnae (mean age, 44 ± 8 years) who had graduated from 13 private medical schools in Japan. Data on threatened abortion (TA), preterm birth (PTB), and the number of working hours during the first trimester of pregnancy were obtained via retrospective assessments.


Of the 939 physicians with a first pregnancy, 15% experienced TA and 12% experienced PTB. Women who experienced TA (mean weekly working hours: 62 h vs. 50 h, P < .0001) or PTB (62 h vs. 50 h, P < .0001) had longer weekly working hours during the first trimester than did those without pregnancy complications. Compared with women who worked 40 hours or less per week, women who worked 71 hours or more per week had a three-fold higher risk of experiencing TA (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.7-6.0) even after adjusting for medical specialty, maternal age, and current household income. The risk of experiencing PTB was 2.5 times higher (95% CI:1.2-5.2) in women who worked 51-70 hours and 4.2 times higher (95% CI: 1.9-9.2) in women who worked 71 hours or more even after adjusting for specialty, maternal age, and current household income. The trend in the P statistic reflecting the effect of the quartile of hours worked per week (40 hours, 41-50 hours, 51-70 hours, ≥71 hours) on TA or PTB was 0.0001 in the multivariate logistic regression models.


These results suggest that working long hours during the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with TA and PTB.

Pregnancy complication; Preterm birth; Threatened abortion; Women physicians; Working hours