Long Commutes can Impact your Pregnancy

With the crazy housing market in the Bay Area, we see patients every day who have longer and longer commutes to work. Unfortunately, this may not be the best news for our pregnant working moms.

A new study from Leigh University in Pennsylvania studied birth records in New Jersey from 2014 and 2015 and information on the working mothers regarding their commute to work. The study was the first of its kind and showed some troubling correlations. Women in the study who commuted long distances (50 miles each way) to work were found to have an increased chance of having a low birth weight infant of under 5.5 pounds or 2500 grams.

For every ten miles of extra travel distances their chances increased by 0.9 percentage points compared to the national average. These women also had a higher chance of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This is when the estimated size and weight of the baby calculated through ultrasound are below the 10th percentile. This means that 90% of infants at the same developmental age are larger than those with IUGR. For these women with long commute times, the risk of IUGR increased by 0.6 percentage points per every ten extra miles of travel time compared to the average rate of women who lived within 10 miles of their workplace. These commuting women also had a 2.5 percent reduction in the total number of prenatal appointments and 2.84 percent decrease in the probability that her first prenatal appointment would occur within her first trimester.

So, what does this mean?

It’s not time to change jobs or move homes just yet.   First, the study was based on “long-distance” commutes, defined as at least 50 miles in each direction. Most people don’t work 50 miles from home.  But there are those that do, according to US Census data, roughly 2.2 million U.S. workers travel at least 50 miles each way.  

For the women that do have such long commutes, it’s important to remember that while this study has established an association between long commutes and impacts on babies, it doesn’t mean the commute itself is the cause. The study authors think maternal stress from the commutes and under-use of prenatal care due to the commutes are the more likely culprits, but more research is needed. We know from previous studies maternal stress is not great for infants, but who can truly live a completely stress-free life? Talking to your doctor about what can be done is a great first step and aiming to minimize–not eradicate–stress is a far more achievable goal.

If you have a commute of 50 miles or longer, please bring this up with your OBGYN.  Important takeaways from this study let us know you have a risk factor—not necessarily a direct cause—for IUGR and possibly a low birth weight infant.   As with other risk factors, increased screening can be considered in pregnancy as well as working with your employer to make sure you have enough time off to attend every prenatal appointment. 

Here at El Camino Women’s Medical Group, we offer some weekend, early morning, later afternoon/evening, and online visits to help those with a stricter work schedule. We have a doctor on call 24/7 that can help answer questions and secure messages that can be sent through our Healow App at any time. There is no reason to wait to be seen or skip appointments just for work. We often give work notes to our patients that have to miss work to be seen and try to have extended hours to give patients options. Planning ahead can greatly reduce stress. Once you realize you are pregnant you can call us at (650) 396-8110 to schedule your first appointment. Many of our patients schedule their monthly visits after that in advance to have more availability to choose from and schedule around their work or responsibilities.

For many of us commuting to work is the only financially available option to us. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you to help your stress levels and have the healthiest pregnancy and delivery possible.



El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, and Pooja Gupta, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecgologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano is also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.


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