Rising heat waves pose increasing risk of preterm births

Extreme heat significantly raises the risk of preterm births, with severe impacts on marginalized communities.

Virginia Gewin reports for Grist. This article is part of a series in partnership with Vox and The 19th.


In short:

  • Research indicates that high temperatures correlate with increased rates of preterm births, particularly affecting Black mothers.
  • Global climate change intensifies heat waves, exacerbating maternal health disparities and increasing risks of pregnancy complications.
  • Systemic racism and inadequate access to healthcare and green spaces amplify these health risks in marginalized communities.

Why this matters:

As climate change worsens, extreme heat will increasingly threaten maternal and fetal health, especially in vulnerable populations. For expectant mothers, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can lead to dehydration and increased core body temperature, both of which are stressors that may trigger preterm labor. Babies born prematurely face a higher risk of complications, including respiratory issues, developmental delays, and long-term health problems.

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