Does working night shift causes "infertility" ? | Is it a " Infertility shift " ?

Women who are struggling with infertility are always researching and looking for information that will lift the mystery behind their infertility; and anyone who’s looked will know that it isn’t difficult to find information. The only problem is that you can get snowballed by it and will find it difficult to shovel yourself out of it all. That’s the Internet era for you. This is something the 21st century has brought to us, just as it has brought us fast lives and workplaces that operate 24/7, 365 days a year.

What isn’t so tangible is that it has also brought with it the growing problem of infertility and in many ways, it's linked to our lifestyles, the food we eat or don’t eat; the fact that most people refuse to recognize that something called exercise exists and that there is no light at night because that’s when human beings were typically meant to sleep, are all becoming factors that affect fertility.

A Sleep-Deprived Generation

But today, all of that has changed and most people don’t manage to get their 8 hours of beauty sleep. When patients come to me for treatment, we do a number of tests and also conduct a physical. In addition, we get a complete rundown on the kind of lifestyle the patient leads or has led up until now. In totality, all these things give us a clearer view of what might be causing the patient’s infertility.

While we are catching our 40 winks, our bodies are going through the motions of repairing cells as well as regulating hormones. Leptin is a special hormone that is the main link between sleep and fertility. It affects ovulation and it’s important that women get adequate sleep to ensure proper leptin production.

Lack of sleep also affects the production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) & luteinizing hormone (LH) all of which are connected to fertility in one way or the other. Any compromise on the production of these hormones can impact fertility in women.

Related Factors

With so many women working extended hours and on the night shift (which is infamously known as the “infertility shift”), insomnia is becoming another major factor that impacts women- it affects your hormones and can also age you faster than you normally would.

While the stress-infertility link is a widely debated one, the fact is that when women are diagnosed with infertility, it creates a tremendous amount of stress which has a negative impact on sleep, mood, and fertility. When stress takes on a chronic form, it can impact sleep habits which in turn can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. This sets up a negative vicious cycle.

Also, it just becomes much harder to find time to have sex when you are on a night shift, and your husband is on a day shift. This just makes a bad situation even worse!

The “Infertility Shift

If you work nights, there is a distinct possibility that you will have a much tougher time getting pregnant. A number of studies have shown that women who work on night shifts have irregular menstrual cycles which can affect conception. This is because our bodies function on an internal clock- The Circadian Rhythm. Standard patterns of light & dark ensure that our Circadian Rhythm continues to function normally.

However, working nights can send your Circadian Rhythm for a toss. It also controls the production of cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (the sleep hormone). When you keep all these facts in view, it’s not difficult to understand why and how a lack of sleep can impact fertility. Very simply, if you work on the “infertility shift”, and are trying to have baby, first make a shift to a routine that will give you a sufficient amount of sleep, at the right time.

Though this may be easier said than done, it’s a very important aspect that women who desire to have a baby, should not overlook or ignore. Be kind to your body and you will find that it reacts in a better way too.

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Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.