Climate Change May Impact Pregnant Women and the Birthweight of Their Babies

A new study led by researchers at the University of Utah shows that climate change is not only impacting the environment but may have a negative impact on human development and the health of mothers and their infants.

GraceThe study led by Kathryn Grace, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah, examined the relationship between rates of precipitation, temperature, and birthweight of children in 19 African countries. Nearly 70,000 births in 19 African countries between 1986 and 2010 were included in the dataset.

The results showed that pregnant women who lived in areas where rain has decreased and where there was an increase in very hot days had children with lower birthweights. Previous studies have shown that low birthweight infants are more susceptible to illness, face a higher risk of mortality, are more likely to develop disabilities and are less likely to attain the same level of education and income as an infant born within a healthy weight range.

“Our findings demonstrate that in the very early stages of intra-uterine development, climate change has the potential to significantly impact birth outcomes. While the severity of that impact depends on where the pregnant woman lives, in this case the developing world, we can see the potential for similar outcomes everywhere,” said Dr. Grace.

Dr. Grace joined the faculty at the University of Utah in 2012. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in theoretical mathematics. Dr. Grace earned a master’s degree in biostatistics from the Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans and a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The article, “Linking Climate Change and Health Outcomes: Examining the Relationship Between Temperature, Precipitation and Birth Weight in Africa,” appears in the November 2015 issue of the journal Global Environmental Change. It may be accessed here.

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