Climate change poses significant risks to maternal and fetal health, impacting pregnancies and the well-being of both mothers and infants. Here are some key points on how climate change affects pregnancy:
- Increased Risk of Complications:
- Heat-Related Issues: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that heat is associated with higher rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, stillbirth, and neonatal stress.
- Extreme Weather Events: Other extreme weather events, such as cyclones and wildfires, have been linked to pregnancy complications, reduced access to prenatal care, and mental health challenges for expecting parents.
- Wildfire Smoke and Pregnancy:
- Wildfire smoke has been associated with pregnancy complications, including premature birth.
- Pregnant and postpartum individuals exposed to wildfires are vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms.
- Air Pollution and Preterm Birth:
- Studies reviewed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that air pollution and extreme heat are linked to preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
- Black pregnant individuals may face a higher risk of preterm birth due to air pollution.
- Disproportionate Impacts:
- Lower-income households, often located near farming operations or in air-polluted cities, face increased challenges, including limited access to food and prenatal vitamins.
- Communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and climate change impacts.
- Heat and Fertility:
- While research on the impact of climate change on fertility is limited, demographic studies suggest a decline in birth rates following hot weather.
- Rising temperatures may pose risks to ovarian function, with potential implications for future population size.
- Lack of Medical Training:
- Traditionally, many medical professionals have not received extensive training on how climate change affects pregnancy and reproductive health.
- Legislation is being considered to fund training for medical professionals to identify climate change risks on pregnant patients.
Protective Measures for Expecting Parents:
- Implement general health tips, such as staying hydrated, drinking cool water, and engaging in physical activity during cooler parts of the day.
- Limit exposure to toxins by reducing plastic use, using water purifiers, and consuming a plant-based diet.
- Wear masks, such as N95, KN95, or FFP2 masks, to reduce exposure to air pollution.
- Discuss concerns with medical providers and seek guidance on dietary changes and protective measures.
Despite the challenges posed by climate change, taking proactive steps to prioritize health and well-being can contribute to a healthier pregnancy. Pregnant individuals and those planning to conceive should be aware of potential climate-related risks and work collaboratively with healthcare providers to address these concerns.