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Reproductive Disorders and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Female Flight Attendants

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Lauria L, Ballard TJ, Caldora M, Mazzanti C, Verdecchia A. Reproductive disorders and pregnancy outcomes among female flight attendants. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006; 77:533–539.

Background: Occupational exposures in female aircrew may cause adverse pregnancy outcomes and menstrual disturbances. We studied reproductive health among female flight attendants. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional health survey among an occupational cohort of current and former flight attendants using a postal questionnaire including items on pregnancy outcome, menstrual characteristics, and infertility. We investigated these factors by occupational status (in service or not). Results: The questionnaire was sent to 3036 women with a response rate of 64% (74% for current and 48% for former flight attendants). Spontaneous abortion rates were similar for pregnancies of women in service and not (12.6 vs. 11.4%; p = 0.58). Induced abortion rates were lower for in-service pregnancies (7.9%) compared with pregnancies of women not in service (21.1%) (p < 0.001). Menstrual irregularities in the year preceding the survey for women under 40 yr were more frequent among current than former flight attendants (20.6% vs. 10.4%, p = 0.02). Fertility problems were reported by 20.6% of respondents. An association between infertility and irregular menstrual cycles was found: odds ratio 1.6; 95% confidence limits 1.1, 2.4. Conclusions: Active flight attendants had a lower rate of induced abortions than former flight attendants, but the spontaneous abortion rate was similar between the two groups. Active flight attendants reported more menstrual irregularities, which are a risk factor for infertility. Lack of comparison with working women in other occupations precludes a conclusion that flight attendants are at greater occupational risk of reproductive disorders. Future studies of reproductive health in flight attendants should address personal and work-related risk factors in more detail and include comparison occupational groups.

Keywords: abortion; infertility; menstrual cycle; occupation; women’s health

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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