A GP guide to environmental impacts on pregnancy

The impact of environmental exposure in pregnancy and early life on long-term health outcomes is complex but slowly being understood
  • The physical, nutritional and psychosocial environments of both mother and father affect fetal development and pregnancy outcome, with lifelong implications for health.
  • Diverse environmental exposures affect pregnancy through common pathways such as epigenetic alterations, hormonal disruption and inflammation. Such exposures can potentiate each other.
  • Ubiquitous environmental exposures, such as air pollution and chemicals in consumer products, are a significant public health issue.
  • In clinical practice, doctors need a working knowledge of the nature of risks, and available resources, in particular for:
    • Women with high levels of anxiety
    • Situations where exposure is unusually high (eg, occupational exposures, bushfires)
    • Women who are vulnerable (eg, comorbid cardiorespiratory disease)
    • Offering all women simple strategies to minimise harm, based on the precautionary principle.

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