My wife sometimes has to work 24 hours straight at least twice every three weeks, and it is very taxing on her, and she usually doesn't fully get back to norm until the weekend. She is a programmer, so work is very stressful and both physically and mentally draining.

We are planning to have a child soon, and I was wondering if there is any studies or anything saying that such a workload is bad for baby's health.

I was thinking of maybe convincing her to quit her job. The money will be very hard to come by in that scenario, but I want to make sure that our first child is as healthy as possible.

  • I would never ever let a pregnant woman work 24 h straight. Pregnancy is super fragile. Just doing the bare minimum and googling around for basic scientific studies about lack of proper sleep cyckes and its effects on the body should be enough to prove it's a terrible idea.
    – lkraav
    Sep 14, 2015 at 19:49
  • @Ikraav, unless backed up by a reference supporting your statements, this is only your opinion, and I might add that women have been giving birth under extraordinary conditions, refuting your claim of fragility. Sep 14, 2015 at 20:00
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    Seems to me there's a fair bit of room between "work a crazy schedule" and "quit your job".
    – Joe
    Sep 14, 2015 at 20:07
  • @Joe alas there isn't. It is either that job or quitting. Doubt any company would want to hire a pregnant woman... and her current job is not easy on hours at all...
    – Quillion
    Sep 15, 2015 at 13:06
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    Perhaps she should talk to her doctor, then, and ask whether these sorts of hours are a problem. If the doctor thinks they are, she can likely get a letter requiring her employer to make reasonable accommodations (under the FMLA, assuming you're in the US; in other countries she likely has even more protections.)
    – Joe
    Sep 15, 2015 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


Maternal stress has been shown to have detrimental effects to babies in the womb. A survey of relevant studies was published by Emory University.

Prenatal stress and perinatal outcomes—Maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy has been associated with:

  • shorter gestation & higher incidence of preterm birth
  • smaller birth weight and length
  • increased risk of miscarriage

Prenatal stress and infant outcomes—Prospective studies have shown that > maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy are related to infant outcomes such as:

  • temperamental problems and increased fussiness
  • problems with attention, attention regulation, and emotional reactivity
  • lower scores on measures of mental development

Prenatal stress and child outcomes—A recent large-scale epidemiological study confirmed some of the infant outcomes above and showed associations between prenatal stress and anxiety and:

  • hyperactivity and inattention in boys

  • emotional problems in girls and boys

  • conduct problems in girls

Granted, not all of these studies showed correlations between the type of stress your wife is put through by her job - some were about natural disasters or emotional stress like death of a family member. Nonetheless, stress hormones pass through directly to the fetus. Lack of sleep also decreases the body's ability to process stress hormones.

So in answer to your question, yes, a mother's crazy work schedule can affect the baby in the womb. As with all scientific studies correlating inputs like stress with outcomes, whether it will or not is not so easy to determine as it will depend on the specific individual characteristics wife and (future) baby.

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