Pregnancy and newborn health - heat impacts and emerging solutions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Seminars in perinatology




Climate change; Extreme temperature; Health; Infant; Prenatal; Warm weather


Evidence is accumulating, both in the US and abroad, of the apparent serious health impacts of various environmental exposures tied to climate change. High ambient temperature, or heat, is a worsening global health risk. Heat risk is affected by many factors such as the magnitude, duration, and timing of exposure - such as specific, critical windows during pregnancy. This article focuses on the association of heat with both adverse pregnancy and newborn health outcomes. Regarding pregnancy, studies link heat and preterm birth, low birth weight and stillbirth. Multiple potential mechanisms support the biological plausibility of these associations. Emerging evidence suggests that heat, via epigenetics, may affect maternal health far beyond pregnancy. For newborn health impacts, heat is associated with increased hospitalization, neurologic and gastrointestinal dysfunction, and infant death. Research gaps include the need to study neonates separately from children and determining the mechanisms linking heat to adverse outcomes. We also highlight disparate adverse reproductive health outcomes for communities of color and low income tied to disproportionate exposures to environmental stressors like heat. Finally, we summarize educational and clinical tool resources for clinicians, information for patients, and opportunities for near-term action using the precautionary principle framework.


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