WORKING night shifts can increase a women's risk of suffering miscarriages, Southampton fertility experts have revealed.

Dr Linden Stocker and Dr Ying Cheong from the Princess Anne Hospital have also discovered that those who work alternate and changing shifts - not just nights - are more likely to take longer to conceive and suffer from menstrual disruption.

Their findings have been revealed as a result of a study of 119,345 women, assessing what impact non-standard working schedules had on their reproductive outcomes.

They found almost 29 per cent of women who worked night shifts only had an increased rate of miscarriage, while 22 per cent who worked alternate or changing shifts suffered menstrual disruption, which can cause fertility problems.

The results also showed that shift workers had an 80 per cent increased rate of subfertility, which is the tern used to describe prolonged inability to conceive.

Dr Stocker, a clinical research fellow at the hospital, said: “Many women work and we already know that working shifts is a risk factor for health and social wellbeing as shift workers adopt poor sleep hygiene, suffer sleep deprivation and develop activity levels that are desynchronised from their daily routine.

“But the adverse health impacts of shift work in early reproductive function is a new, additional finding and it provides strong initial evidence that women who are trying to conceive would benefit from assessing their work patterns.”

Dr Cheong, clinical director of the Princess Anne Hospital's Complete Fertility Centre Southampton, added: “Our findings may have implications for women attempting to become pregnant as well as employers.

“But women will want to know how they can enhance their reproductive potential, not just decrease their risk of fertility problems, so we are now looking to discover the medical explanation for this in order to improve outcomes.”