Giving Compass’ Take:
• Alan Barreca, Professor of Environmental Economics at UCLA, believes that higher temperatures caused by climate change are causing pregnant women to deliver their babies earlier.
• How can funder help to support more research on this matter? In what other ways is heat affecting our health?
About a quarter of children in the United States are born two to three weeks before their due date, which qualifies them as “early term.” Pregnancies typically last 40 weeks, so you might think that being born two to three weeks early wouldn’t matter. But, children born just two or three weeks early are at slightly higher risks of respiratory problems, like asthma, later in childhood. About 1 in 10 children in the U.S. are born more than three weeks before their due date, which qualifies them as “preterm” and puts them at higher risks for much worse outcomes.
Hot weather is one potential risk factor in early deliveries because heat exposure can increase the mother’s level of oxytocin, a hormone that regulates delivery. Despite the plausible link, questions remain about the number of deliveries affected by hot weather every year in the U.S. or if hot weather accelerates the timing of delivery by hours, days or weeks.
I’m an economist who has spent much of my decade long career investigating how weather affects human health, with a focus on child and maternal health. I got started down this career path in 2008 because I wanted to understand why infant health is much worse today in hotter parts of the U.S., like Louisiana. Now, I work on these issues to help identify unknown health-related threats from climate change.
Read the full article about hotter days causing pregnant women to give birth earlier by Alan Barreca at The Conversation.
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