Would Noise Pollution Affect my Pregnancy?

The risks of air and water pollution are so well spread and well-known that most would-be parents will take the appropriate precautions beforehand- but many expecting parents did not realise the dangers of noise pollution as well. Even when noise is muffled, it can reach your foetus, as sound can travel easily to your womb. Babies can often start responding to sounds around the 24th week to build bonds with parents. That is why loud noises have the potential to damage the hearing of your unborn child.

Although many people assume that foetuses are well-insulated from external noises, several studies have proven this wrong, as noise, especially low-frequency ones, although muffled in the womb, can be physically conducted to your baby.

According to the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), exposure to noise during pregnancy can increase the risks of hearing dysfunction in children, with an 80% increase in risk for pregnant moms working in an occupational environment with high decibel levels. The Swedish Work Environment Authority recommends that pregnant ladies should avoid noises with levels over 80 dBA. Unfortunately, this advice is often unheeded. Expecting mothers should also stay away from environments where they may be potentially at risk of loud noises from sudden impact, to avoid startling the mother and causing cochlear damage in premature babies, whose hearing is more sensitive. Mothers should not forget that even if you can use ear protectors in noisy environments, there is nothing you can do to shield the baby you are carrying from noise pollution, other than to avoid being in the environment altogether.

A study of 131 children indicated that there is a three-fold increase in children having high-frequency hearing loss when their mothers were exposed to Leq of 85 to 95 dB range of noise, with a significant increase in the risk of hearing loss when the noise exposure also involved significant low-frequency noise.

Noise pollution is also associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, with hypotheses that noise pollution acts as a trigger to it. Pre-eclampsia is when there is high blood pressure, with protein leaking into the bloodstream, putting the unborn baby in danger. As some pregnant moms’ bodies are already under pressure from pregnancy, chronic noise, such as those from road traffic, can lead to poor sleep and lack of rest, resulting in increased stress on the mom’s body, and subsequently causing elevated blood pressure. A study also suggests that every ten decibels increase the risk of pre-eclampsia by 10%.

Prolonged noise pollution can also lead to the moms developing heart disease, diabetes, stress and tiredness, all which will affect her developing baby. Some researches have also found that pregnant moms exposed to over 80 dBA of noise during a work shift have a higher risk of premature delivery, with babies that have lower birth weight.

Moms-to-be need to remember that the best, only way to protect your unborn baby’s hearing is to stay away from sources of loud noises as much as possible.

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