Sick leave during pregnancy: a longitudinal study of rates and risk factors in a Norwegian population


  • SK Dørheim,

    Corresponding author
    • MoodNet Research Group, Division of Psychiatry, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway
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  • B Bjorvatn,

    1. Norwegian Competence Centre for Sleep Disorders, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway
    2. Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
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  • M Eberhard-Gran

    1. Health Services Research Centre, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway
    2. Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
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Correspondence: SK Dørheim, Division of Psychiatry, Stavanger University Hospital, P.O. Box. 8100, 4068 Stavanger, Norway. Email



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


Longitudinal, population-based descriptive study.


Akershus University Hospital, Norway.


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


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.


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.


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.