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You’re not imagining it – it is very hot out there.
Heat waves swept the nation beginning in early June 2022, putting more than 50 million people under excessive heat warnings and breaking or tying record-high temperatures in more than 25 major cities, according to NPR.
For pregnant women, these severely hot temperatures could increase the risk of miscarriage, according to a new study at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).
Researchers found that pregnant people in North America had a 44% higher risk of an early miscarriage (within eight weeks of pregnancy) in the summer months, particularly in late August compared to February. This trend was similar during any week of pregnancy, where risk of miscarriage was 31% higher in late August compared to February.
Although more research is needed, researchers believe that exposure to high temperatures may be a contributing factor to the study’s findings.
“We know that heat is associated with higher risk of other pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm delivery, low birth weight, and stillbirth, in particular,” Amelia Wesselink, research assistant professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, said in a press release.
What Do These Study Findings Mean for Latinas?
The study’s findings are particularly alarming for pregnant Latinas, who are more vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures because of where they live and work, according to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund.
Latinos also make up notable percentages of active, outdoor jobs, such as construction (27.3%) and agriculture (23.1%), according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Further, Latino neighborhoods often lack shade trees and green space, which can help neighborhoods stay cool.
If you are pregnant and exposed to excess heat at work or at home, its important to monitor yourself for any signs of heat stress, including:
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends these tips to avoid heat stress:
- Drink plenty of fluids and take breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned area. Avoid hot work environments which do not provide adequate cooling breaks.
- If you work in a hot environment, talk to your doctor or your workplace safety officer to find out how to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion.
Other heat-related illnesses can occur, including heat rashes and heat strokes. Learn more about the symptoms of these illnesses from the CDC.
Climate Change is a Threat to Public Health
While government organizations, such as the CDC, are already creating resources to help people safely navigate hot temperatures, this summer’s sweltering heat is a stark reminder that climate change is a threat to human health, especially for Latinos and all pregnant people.
“Medical guidance and public health messaging – including heat action plans and climate adaptation policies – need to consider the potential effects of heat on the health of pregnant people and their babies,” Wesselink said.
Latinos across the nation are already fighting for climate change action by confronting environmental justice issues in their community at the local and state level.
You can also help speak up for a healthier environment, too.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including environmental and maternal health concerns, to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness.