Is Air Pollution Bad During Pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, you are always worrying about what could have a negative effect on your child’s development. Everything you eat, drink and do could affect your baby, and you don’t want to do anything to cause it harm. Of course, some things are out of your control. There are minerals in the tap water you drink, chemicals in the food you eat, and even pollution in the air you breathe. The government regulates the amount of chemicals and minerals found in all of these places, but you can’t help but wonder what affect they could be having.

What Do Studies Show About Air Pollution And Pregnancy Outcomes?

There are several studies showing that polluted air during pregnancy can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes including:

A study published in 2010 specifically set out to find what types of negative effects air pollution caused by regular traffic has on your pregnancy. Especially for women who live in densely populated urban areas, pollution is a major part of breathing the outside air. Traffic is constant, and it makes sense that the cars would be emitting harmful compounds. This specific study set out to determine whether or not breathing these chemicals in during pregnancy caused negative side effects such as preterm birth, babies who were born small for their gestation age, and abnormal birth weight overall. Surprisingly, the study showed that there were no associations between heavy air pollution caused by traffic and negative side effects during pregnancy. The compound NO2 is released into the air and creates pollution in areas with high levels of traffic pollution, and women exposed to large amounts of this had healthy babies.
For the most part, these women gave birth to healthy babies of a normal weight at full term. Any variables were related to external factors outside of the experiment’s control. There are many things to worry about during your pregnancy, and your worrying is not unfounded. Many chemicals found in every day items are extremely harmful for developing babies, and scientists haven’t even uncovered many of them yet. However, rest assured knowing that the pollution you breathe in, even when walking down the busiest of streets, will not have any negative effects on your developing child. The fact that you are exposed to pollution probably means that you’re outside getting some exercise, which is worth the risk anyway. If you’re really worried about the pollution, you should speak with your healthcare provider about solutions. However, you shouldn’t take drastic measures to avoid the polluted air, as it is essentially risk-free to your developing baby. Source: Ulrike Gehring et al: Traffic-Related Air Pollution And Pregnancy Outcomes. Occupational and Environmental Medicine March 2010

In another study information collected on air quality and fetal morbidity in Hillsborough County, Florida was used completed by researchers from the University of South Florida and various governmental institutions. 

Researchers reviewed information on 145,445 singletons born between 1998 and 2007 in the county. Three databases were used to collect information: air pollution data from the EPA, vital records statistics, and Florida Hospital Discharge. Researchers were looking for specific fetal outcomes, including early birth, SGA (small for gestational age) and low birth weight.

When air pollutant information was compared to fetal outcome, researchers found a correlation between fetal morbidity and air pollution. Pregnant women exposed to air pollution may be at increased risk of fetal morbidity.