High Temperatures Could Cause Premature Birth

Published on March 20th, 2020

premature birth thurswell lawGlobal warming is having an impact on just about everything, whether you want to admit it or not. And now, new research suggests that extreme heat may trigger contractions and premature birth. Premature birth is a risk by itself and comes along with many possible birth injuries.

Research Shows a Link Between High Temps and Preterm Birth

Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are considered premature and at risk of health complications. Babies born before 32 weeks have higher rates of disability at death. Babies born between 23 and 26 weeks are at an especially high risk of severe complications. Their risk of infant illness or death increases when born too early. While there are many potential causes of premature birth, from a weak cervix to diabetes, infection or physical injury, studies have found evidence that hot weather could be a major contributor.

The new study, published in Environment International, tracked almost two million pregnancies in California during the summer months from 2005 to 2013. The length of the pregnancies was compared to temperature records by zip code. Of all the women observed, 6.72% had premature births.

Four relative temperature thresholds were used to define heat waves, ranging from the 75th to 95th percentile of all maximum temps in each zip code. For example, a heat wave in San Francisco, which rarely sees temperatures above 90 degrees, would have a much lower temp than a heat wave in a hotter region like Palm Springs, where temperatures can often go above 11.

The length of the heat waves was also recorded by the researchers. Every time the temp went up and the duration of the heat wave was lengthy, the percentage of preterm births increased steadily. For instance, 6.63% of births were preterm when the mean temp was 88 degrees for two days. The preterm births were 7.46% when there were four days of 98-degree temps.

The Dangers of Premature Birth

There are many possible reasons mothers may go into early labor during heat waves. The lead author of the study suggested the extreme heat might make mothers more susceptible to hormone changes or dehydration. Both factors could trigger contractions and earlier birth.

The biggest question is: What should doctors be doing to protect expectant mothers? Obstetricians warn about certain types of exertion, dangerous foods, and other things that can put a mother and baby at risk. Are they also warning about heat?

Premature birth is dangerous, and can lead to respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision problems, seizures, developmental delays, neurological defects, and more.

If you suffered a premature birth because of a doctor’s negligence, or your baby suffered a preventable birth injury, contact the Michigan personal injury attorneys at Thurswell Law to get the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation by calling (248) 354-2222 today. We do not charge any fees until we win.

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