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Keywords:

  • Pregnancy;
  • prevalence;
  • risk factors;
  • sick leave

Objective

To describe the prevalence of, reasons given for, and factors associated with sick leave during pregnancy.

Design

Longitudinal, population-based descriptive study.

Setting

Akershus University Hospital, Norway.

Population

All women scheduled to give birth at the hospital (November 2008 to April 2010).

Methods

Consenting women were handed a questionnaire at the routine ultrasound check at 17 weeks of gestation. Women returning this questionnaire received a second questionnaire at 32 weeks of gestation. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to examine associations with somatic, psychiatric and social factors.

Main outcome measures

Rates and duration of sick leave.

Results

By 32 weeks of gestation, 63.2% of the 2918 women included were on sick leave, and 75.3% had been on sick leave at some point during their pregnancy. Pelvic girdle pain and fatigue/sleep problems were the main reasons given for sick leave. Being on sick leave in all trimesters was strongly associated with hyperemesis, exercising less than weekly, chronic pain before or during pregnancy, infertility treatment (all P < 0.001); younger maternal age, conflicts in the workplace (both P < 0.01); multiparity, previous depression, insomnia and lower education (all P < 0.05). Sick leave was associated with elective caesarean section and higher infant birthweight (P < 0.01). Adjustment of the work situation was associated with 1 week shorter duration of sick leave.

Conclusions

Most women receive sick leave during pregnancy, but sick leave might not be caused by pregnancy alone. Previous medical and psychiatric history, work conditions and socio-economic factors need to be addressed to understand sick leave during pregnancy.