Shift work during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for preterm birth and low birth weight. However, the impact upon the long term health of the children is currently unknown. In this study, we used an animal model to determine the consequences of maternal shift work exposure on the health of the adult offspring. Pregnant rats were exposed to chronic phase shifts (CPS) in their photoperiod every 3-4 days throughout gestation and the first week after birth. Adult offspring were assessed for a range of metabolic, endocrine, circadian and neurobehavioural parameters. At 3 months of age, male pups exposed to the CPS schedule in utero had increased adiposity (+29%) and hyperleptinaemia (+99% at 0700h). By 12 months of age, both male and female rats displayed hyperleptinaemia (+26% and +41% respectively) and hyperinsulinaemia (+110% and +83% respectively). 12 month old female CPS rats displayed poor glucose tolerance (+18%) and increased insulin secretion (+29%) in response to an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test. In CPS males the glucose response was unaltered, but the insulin response was reduced by 35%. The glucose response to an insulin tolerance test was decreased by 21% in CPS females but unaltered in males. Disruption of circadian rhythmicity during gestation resulted in gender dependent metabolic consequences for the adult offspring. These results highlight the need for a thorough analysis of shift work exposure in utero on the health of the adult offspring in humans.
Varcoe, T. J., Wight, N., Voultsios, A., Salkeld, M. D., & Kennaway, D. J. (2011). Chronic Phase Shifts of the Photoperiod throughout Pregnancy Programs Glucose Intolerance and Insulin Resistance in the Rat. PLoS ONE, 6(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018504