TopicsGrowth & DevelopmentAustralia: extreme temperatures and birthweight

Australia: extreme temperatures and birthweight

Extreme heat or cold exposure caused by climate change could impact babies’ birthweight for gestational age, research has found.

Researchers examined 385,337 births between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2015, including babies born too small (9.8% of babies in the study) and born too large (9.9%). The Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) was used to examine a parent’s outdoor biothermal (hot or cold) stress exposures during pregnancy.

Extreme biothermal stress at specific times in pregnancy seemed to increase the risk of babies being too small or large. Researchers say this is important since a baby’s birthweight is ‘strongly associated’ with mortality risk during the first year and developmental problems.

Study lead Dr Sylvester Dodzi Nyadanu highlighted: ‘We also found other subpopulations were at higher risk of abnormal foetal growth due to exposure to biothermal stress, including non-Caucasian people, male births, pregnancies in those aged 35 and above, those in rural areas, and those who smoked during pregnancy.’

He concluded: ‘Pregnancy is a vulnerable period for climate change and so any climate care intervention is reproductive healthcare.’

Image | Shutterstock


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