Heatwaves linked to preterm births

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland looked at preterm births in Brisbane between November and March for the years 2000 to 2010.

They showed that women who were exposed to at least one heatwave, where temperatures were above the 90th percentile for two days, had a 28% increased risk of preterm birth.

There were 281 heatwaves over the 10 years of the study using this definition.

The risk of preterm birth was twice as high in women who experienced a heatwave in the last days of pregnancy where temperatures were above the 98th percentile for four days. 

The authors hypothesised that activating the maternal-foetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis by heat stress could trigger preterm birth.

“A community-based heat health warning system should be developed and implemented in a timely way to alert pregnant women,” they wrote.

The study also showed that the