• The cost of commuting. Scientists and doctors have long known that there’s a connection between infant health and the distance a pregnant woman has to travel to get to her doctor’s office.
But there’s another link discovered by researchers at Lehigh University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison—between infant health and the distance a woman has to travel to get to her job every day.
In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists Yang Wang and Muzhe Yang examined the birth records of women in New Jersey in concert with their home and work addresses. Adding 10 miles to a pregnant woman’s commute increased the likelihood of low birth weight, delivering via C-section, and intrauterine growth restriction, or when a baby doesn’t reach a normal size as measured throughout the pregnancy.
The reasons are fascinating—both maternal stress, or the stress of commuting long distances, and the simple fact that commuting 50-plus miles twice daily (the Census definition of a long-distance commute) eats into the time a woman has to go to prenatal visits. In fact, this study also discovered a connection between the length of a commute and how early and often a woman makes it to her prenatal checkups, or not.
Like the maternal mortality crisis that crosses income lines for black women (an issue, in related reading, that Rep. Lauren Underwood is tackling), the costs of commuting while pregnant cross economic demographics. The women in this study are relatively wealthy, living in zip codes with average household income of $75,118.40. Many are likely living far away from their jobs by choice, to live in rural or suburban communities.
This particular study has some areas ripe for follow-up; it only measured commutes by distance, leaving out women with commutes that may be short by mileage but long in time and high in stress on public transportation.
You can read more about the study here, including the perspective of Flor Bacasegua, a California woman I spoke to who commuted 45 minutes each way during her fourth pregnancy. And keep in mind the policy implications of these findings: even more proof of our need for paid family leave, including before a child is born.
Credit: Source link