Hot weather linked to rise in early child­birth

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

PARIS: Hot weather can cause a spike in the num­ber of ba­bies be­ing born early, a phe­nom­e­non that may harm in­fant health and is likely to get worse as tem­per­a­tures climb due to cli­mate change, sci­en­tists said yes­ter­day. Re­searchers in Cal­i­for­nia said an av­er­age of 25,000 chil­dren were born up to two weeks early dur­ing warmer than av­er­age pe­ri­ods in the United States be­tween 1969-1988 - equiv­a­lent to 150,000 lost ges­ta­tional days an­nu­ally.

While it is not cer­tain why moth­ers ap­pear to go into la­bor early as the mer­cury climbs, the au­thors of the study pub­lished in Na­ture Re­search Jour­nals said pre­ma­ture births was an is­sue to be taken se­ri­ously. “It is very likely that be­ing born ear­lier will af­fect child de­vel­op­ment and have last­ing im­pacts into adult­hood, but more re­search is needed to con­firm this,” Alan Bar­reca, from the In­sti­tute of the En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­abil­ity, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Los Angeles.

“Hot weather in­creases ma­ter­nal levels of oxy­tocin, which is a key hor­mone that reg­u­lates labour and de­liv­ery. But, the link could be be­cause hot weather causes car­dio­vas­cu­lar stress, which might lead to early de­liv­er­ies,” he told AFP. Bar­reca and a col­league used es­ti­mate shifts in daily birth rates from US coun­ties over a 20year span, a sam­ple in­clud­ing 56 mil­lion births.

They found that early birth rates in­creased by five per­cent on days where the tem­per­a­ture was above 90 de­grees Faren­heit (32.2 Cel­sius), ac­count­ing for around one out of ev­ery 200 births. With tem­per­a­tures cur­rently around 1C hot­ter than pre-in­dus­trial aver­ages and set to in­crease fur­ther, Bar­reca said he was “very con­cerned” of the po­ten­tial im­pacts of greater weather-linked early birth rates in fu­ture. “We pre­dict more than 1 in 100 births will oc­cur ear­lier than ex­pected in the US by the end of the cen­tury,” he said. “That num­ber may seem small, but that’s much higher than the risks of get­ting into a car ac­ci­dent.”

He pointed out that while air con­di­tion­ing was likely to pro­vide moth­ers with pro­tec­tion dur­ing hot weather, the tech­nol­ogy was en­ergy-heavy, ex­pen­sive, and largely ab­sent in de­vel­op­ing na­tions. “Some fam­i­lies will

ex­pe­ri­ence fi­nan­cial stress even if they are able to use more air con­di­tion­ing dur­ing preg­nancy, and fi­nan­cial stress is also bad for chil­dren,” he said.

An­drew Shen­nan, pro­fes­sor of Ob­stet­rics at King’s Col­lege Lon­don said that while ex­tremes of tem­per­a­ture have long been linked to the risk of pre­ma­ture de­liv­ery, the na­ture of that link was un­clear.

“Given the wide va­ri­ety of tem­per­a­tures around the world, and that most women have nor­mal preg­nan­cies, this is un­likely to be an im­por­tant risk fac­tor for any in­di­vid­ual,” said Shen­nan, who was not in­volved in the study. —AFP

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