Would Air Pollution Affect my Pregnancy?
Air pollution is the release of pollutants into the air that are damaging to health and the environment. Air pollution is never good or healthy for any living things and has been linked to several adverse health effects, including respiratory problems, cardiac issues, cognitive decline and even death. This is particularly dangerous for pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. In fact, a study found that air pollution is the cause of 16,000 premature births in the same year in the U.S. alone.
Cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust and waste incineration cause particle pollution, which is a combination of liquid particles and toxic solid in the air we breathe, which irritate our lungs, throats and eyes, making breathing difficult, and associated with lung cancer. Smaller particles can even enter our bloodstream or get trapped in our lungs.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the most common particle pollutants, are particularly harmful and can pose these risks to a mother-to-be:
- Fertility Issues
Air pollution can cause low fertility rates in both men and women.
Air pollution makes asthma worse, and this is especially dangerous for pregnant women because asthma can cause preeclampsia, which elevates your blood pressure and decreases the function of your liver and kidneys. If untreated, asthma will cause your baby to suffer from insufficient oxygen, causing poor growth, low birth weight and premature birth, and increasing your baby’s chances of developing asthma and lung problems later in life.
- Low Birth Weight
Ideal pregnancies deliver babies who are six to nine pounds around 38 to 40 weeks, but exposure to air pollution while pregnant has been attributed to causing underweight babies weighing fewer than five pounds, who are considered weaker and more vulnerable, which will lead to many post-birth complications.
- Premature Delivery
University of York’s study by the Stockholm Environment Institute found that as many as three million babies, around 18% of all preterm births, are born prematurely annually because of air pollution. Babies born preterm may have a higher risk of permanent physical disabilities and risks of neurological disorders.
- Developing Autism
Although it is still unclear how air pollution can cause autism, it has been speculated that the contaminants affect cells that interrupt brain development. In fact, according to a Harvard study, pregnant mothers exposed to high levels of fine particulate pollution (such as living near a highway) during the third trimester of their pregnancy, are twice more likely to deliver a child with autism than mothers who breathe clean air.
- Sudden infant death syndrome
Air pollution has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome in babies, as regular exposure to smoke will put them in danger, leading to a higher risk of miscarriages.
With much research and evidence proving that better air quality is essential to better infant health, a pregnant mother should try her best to avoid being in an environment with air pollution for prolonged periods, as less exposure to pollutants will vastly improve pregnancy outcome.
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