Heat waves boost preterm birth risk

The increased frequency and intensity of heat waves due to climate change puts women at a higher risk of experiencing preterm and early-term labor.

Both preterm and early-term labor jeopardizes the health and well-being of their babies.

An analysis of 53 million births that occurred in the 50 most populous US metropolitan areas during the 25-year period from 1993-2017 showed the rates of preterm and early-term births increased when local temperatures were abnormally hot for more than four consecutive days.

The study is the largest to date investigating the association between extreme heat and perinatal health.

Preterm and early-term births—gestation of less than 37 weeks and less than 39 weeks, respectively—are leading causes of infant mortality and longer-term health issues, such as respiratory, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes.

Even modest increases in cases of these conditions can have large public health implications.

“We are forecasting a very warm summer this year and because of climate change we will experience more heat waves in the future,” says senior author Howard Chang, professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

“Our study shows that this increase in temperature could mean worse outcomes for the babies, because babies born prematurely can have health issues and additional health care costs.”

The study appears in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers from Emory University, the University of Nevada Reno, Yale University, the University of Utah, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research contributed to the work.

Source: Emory University


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