New Study Reveals Increased Risk of Heat-Related Complications for Pregnant Women
New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shed light on the heightened risk of heat-related complications for pregnant women exposed to prolonged high temperatures. Prolonged high temperatures, defined as 95 degrees Fahrenheit and higher for three or more consecutive days, can increase the risk of complications such as sepsis, hemorrhage, and clotting disorders by as much as 27% in pregnant women.
This study, which examined over 400,000 pregnancies in Southern California, also found that heat exposure during the last week of gestation increased the risk of life-threatening delivery complications. Heat exposure during the final trimester of pregnancy is now considered a risk factor for “severe maternal morbidity.”
What makes this research particularly significant is that the United States is currently experiencing record-high temperatures this summer. In fact, Phoenix is poised to break its record for the most consecutive 110-degree days, with unprecedented levels of heat.
Pregnant women, in particular, are more prone to heat-related illness due to the added burden of cooling both their own bodies and their developing baby’s. Dehydration is also a concern as their bodies have less ability to cool themselves and are more prone to dehydration.
Previous studies have already linked heat exposure to premature births and decreased birth weight. Therefore, pregnant women are now strongly advised to limit their time outdoors during extreme temperatures and stay in air-conditioned spaces whenever possible.
If going outdoors is necessary, pregnant women should use ice packs on their armpits and neck to cool down and minimize their time outside. It is crucial to recognize the potential risks of heat exhaustion and heat stroke for pregnant women in extreme heat. Therefore, immediate medical attention should be sought if experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, or loss of consciousness.
With the current climate crisis, heat-related complications during pregnancy are becoming a grave concern. This research serves as a wake-up call for policymakers and healthcare providers to take action to protect the health and well-being of pregnant women during extreme heat events.