Air Pollution and Birth Outcomes

Updated May, 2022

Air pollution causes systemic inflammation in the pregnant mother, morphologic changes in the placenta, narrowing blood vessels, and inhibiting blood transfer to the fetus. Pollution nanoparticles can be found embedded in the placenta itself.

Pregnant women exposed to more air pollution have multiple clinical adverse pregnancy outcomes including:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher rates of pre-eclampsia
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Decreased gestational age at delivery
  • Miscarriages
  • Still births
  • Higher rates of gestational diabetes
  • Premature births
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Low birth weight syndrome
  • Neonates with smaller head circumference.
  • Heart and spinal cord birth defects

Intrauterine inflammation, a significant risk factor for premature birth, is increased with air pollution exposure during pregnancy and even prior to conception.

Hourly increases in air pollution at the beginning of labor is associated with higher rates of premature birth.

Both acute and chronic ozone exposure is related to increased rates of still births,  even exposure just in the several days prior to delivery.

Babies born within 3 km of an oil and gas drilling site had a lower birth weight than babies in the same area born before the drilling took place.

Folate supplements can offset the negative impact of air pollution on the success of assisted reproduction.

[Medical References]

On Feb. 5, 2015, six doctors from UPHE with expertise in the affect of air pollution on pregnancy presented a 75 minute seminar at the Salt Lake City main library.  Listen to it here.