June 16, 2024
Heat Exposure

Study Finds Link Between Excess Heat Exposure and Preterm Births in Australia

A recent study led by A/Prof Shanshan (Shandy) Li from Monash University examined 1.2 million births in Sydney over two decades and revealed a significant association between exposure to extreme heat during the third trimester of pregnancy and the risk of preterm births. The findings indicated that the risk of preterm birth due to extreme temperatures could potentially be mitigated by the presence of greenery in the residential surroundings of pregnant individuals.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, focused on the impact of high temperatures on preterm births and the potential role of trees and overall greenness in reducing this risk. Excess heat was defined as temperatures surpassing the 95th percentile of trimester distributions over the 20-year period analyzed.

Analyzing data from the New South Wales Midwives Data Collection, the research team found that exposure to extreme heat during the third trimester, both during the day and at night, was significantly linked to an increased risk of preterm birth. This association was noted across all levels of area-level greenness, with a slightly diminished impact observed in areas with greater greenery.

A/Prof Li highlighted the potential of greenery, especially trees, in mitigating heat levels and reducing the risks of preterm birth associated with excessive heat exposure. The presence of green spaces not only benefits pregnancy outcomes but also has positive physical and mental health impacts. The integration of heat mitigation strategies, such as increasing green spaces in urban planning, can contribute to improved public health outcomes.

Professor Yuming Guo, senior author of the study, emphasized the importance of understanding the impacts of rising temperatures on birth outcomes and developing strategies to mitigate associated risks. He noted that the increase in extreme temperatures, particularly at night, could disrupt circadian rhythms and impact blood pressure, posing potential challenges for pregnant individuals.

The findings underscore the need for health services to prepare for a potential rise in preterm births as climate change continues to drive global temperature increases. The study adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the impact of environmental factors on pregnancy outcomes and the importance of incorporating strategies to address these risks in public health planning.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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