The developing foetus is particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants. Accumulating evidence shows certain air pollutants may have an adverse effect on pregnancy outcomes. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, is the most severe adverse pregnancy outcome, but little is known as to what causes it. A recently published review in Reviews on Environmental Health focused on exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth.
By Alexandra Grippo
Air pollution is the cause of millions of premature deaths worldwide. It has been known to increase risk of respiratory, cerebrovascular, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer in adults. However, not much research has been done on the effect of air pollution on the developing fetus.
Low birth weight and preterm birth
The developing fetus is thought to be particularly susceptible to environmental pollutants. Increasing evidence suggest that air pollution might have adverse effects on maternal health and pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, and congenital anomalies. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, is the most severe adverse pregnancy outcome, but understanding around the cause of fetal death is limited.
Miscarriages and stillbirth major issue in developing countries
The incidence of miscarriage (or spontaneous abortion) is about 17-22% of all recognized pregnancies. The true rate of pregnancy loss is difficult to determine, and some authors have suggested 20-40% of all losses may occur before clinical detection. In 2009, the WHO reported that 2.6 million stillbirths occurred worldwide, and more than 7200 stillbirths occur every day. In developing countries, spontaneous abortion and stillbirth are still a major health problem, with much of the data underreported or unreliable.
Cooking smoke among dangerous pollutants
The authors reviewed a total of 43 studies on air pollution and fetal death, including 35 human studies and eight animal studies. The evidence suggests exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and cooking smoke during pregnancy, may be associated with higher risk for stillbirth and spontaneous abortion.
The authors concluded that various air pollutants might increase the risk for spontaneous abortion and stillbirth, and further research is warranted to better understand the relationship between air pollution exposure and pregnancy loss.
Read the original article free access article here