A University of Minnesota study has found that a woman's employment during pregnancy does not negatively affect her baby's health.
The research compared two groups of women: those worked full-time while pregnant and those who were not employed while pregnant.
The study's authors hope their findings will change the discussion about employment during pregnancy.
U researcher Katy Kozhimannil said it shouldn't matter whether pregnant women are employed, but rather what type of work they are doing and whether particular jobs pose a risk to their pregnancy.
"It provides reassurances to women and to employers that this dialogue is important to have," she said. "Women shouldn't feel bad if they are employed during their pregnancies. And employers shouldn't feel hesitant about employing pregnant women."
Kozhimannil added: "What our study does is it provides reassurances to women and to some extent employers that work itself is not causing these poor birth outcomes. However, the circumstances of work do matter."
Previous research has shown that some jobs involving strenuous physical labor and long work hours can affect birth outcomes, she said. But absent those conditions, work itself does not appear harmful.
Instead, she said, the individual characteristics of women may have more influence on whether they have poor outcomes such as low birth weight infants or preterm births.
The study appeared in the online edition of Women's Health Issues.