Pregnant partners of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers experience higher levels of stress compared to women whose partners work regular shift work, new research led by Curtin University has found.
The research, published in the Women and Birth Journal, examined data from a Western Australian cohort study and found that pregnant women exhibited increased levels of stress when their partner worked on a high compression roster of three weeks away and one week at home.
Co-author Dr Garth Kendall, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine at Curtin University, said women were particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress during pregnancy and the absence of a partner due to working away could be an additional risk to their wellbeing.
“It is common for many Australian workers to commute long distances to work in relatively remote parts of the country in the mining and construction industries for extended periods of time, which varies from two weeks away with two weeks home, to three weeks away with only one week home,” Dr Kendall said.
“We analysed 394 families including FIFO workers, non-FIFO regular schedule workers, and non-FIFO irregular schedule workers, in order to determine whether there was an association between pregnant women’s report of stress and their partners working away.
“We found that pregnant partners of FIFO workers perceived their lives to be more stressful than women whose partner works non-FIFO regular schedules, especially when their partner worked away for longer periods of time with shorter breaks in between.”
Dr Kendall explained that the research had important implications for the health and wellbeing of pregnant women whose partners spent time away, as it was likely to have long-term health consequences for both the mother and child.
“A great deal of time spent alone and being separated from one’s partner may be a barrier to the formation of trusting, reciprocal relationships that are especially important for the mental health of pregnant women,” Dr Kendall said.
“Although these jobs usually come with rewarding financial benefits, our findings suggest that the perceived economic benefits of their work arrangements are possibly over-shadowed by the potential negative consequences for families.
“Further research is needed to focus on the health and wellbeing of pregnant partners of FIFO workers and further examine the detailed measures of FIFO schedules, as well as family sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics, in order to identify the factors that place women at high risk of stress.”
The research was co-authored by researchers from the School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Paramedicine and the Curtin Business School at Curtin University, Telethon Kids Institute, and WZB Berlin Social Science Centre.
(Source: Curtin University, Women and Birth Journal)