Air Pollution Could Cause Premature Birth
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
There are a lot of reasons that premature birth can happen, from an infection that induces labor to serious conditions like preeclampsia or a placental abruption.
Premature birth has actually been on the rise in the United States, which is actually very worrisome. As of statistics that were taken in 2014, one in every ten babies is born prematurely, and aside from the worry and the health problems that come about for the baby and the baby's family, all of society is impacted by premature birth. The March of Dimes explains that prematurity costs $26.2 billion every year. Even on an individual level, many parents are simply not able to pay for all of the associated medical bills on their own because the costs are too high.
Part of the reason premature birth has been on the rise is due to the increased rate of multiple births; the risk of premature birth goes up with multiples, such as twins. More couples are using reproductive technology to get pregnant, which has a higher incidence of multiples, like twins or even triplets, so some of the rise of prematurity can be attributed to more multiple pregnancies and births, but not all of it. So why the increase in premature labor and births? What's going on here?
One suspected culprit might be a surprising one, and it's one that's kind of hard to avoid because it's literally in every breath we take: our air. Air pollution has been linked to a lot of outcomes during pregnancy, like asthma and autism, but a new study has found that there may also be a link between air pollution and premature birth.
The study found that heavy air pollution was associated with premature birth, and women who were exposed to heavy air pollution, especially in their third trimesters, had even higher rates of premature birth.
What I found interesting about this study is that it didn't necessarily study one particular pollutant in the air, but instead looked at the general air quality and the level of pollution it contained, calling it “fine particulate matter in the air.” So it's not necessarily what exactly is in the air, but how much of it is in the air — factors that are assumedly obvious to be of importance. But still, it's air, and you can't exactly stop it, so it might be helpful to know which areas are more heavily polluted and avoid those or even wear a mask that filters the air if you're pregnant.
Did you have a premature birth?