Harmful effects of Air Pollution on Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Air pollution

Pregnancy is one of the greatest blessing of God. The feeling of the little one growing inside you makes you thrilled and emotional. You start eating more and more healthy food, avoid all sorts of bad eating habits and alcohol. But what about the air which you are breathing? What is the effect of air pollution on pregnancy?

Much research has been done on the effect of air quality on the growing baby. Just like eating healthy helps in the proper growth and development of a baby breathing in healthy air is almost or more important for the growing baby.

Air Pollution

Air pollution can be broadly defined as toxic chemicals or compounds which cause health hazards. These compounds are usually not present in the air and therefore their presence causes detrimental changes in the living world.

Major air pollutants

Greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, smog, other gases like benzene, toluene, and xylene, liquid aerosols and particles like cadmium, mercury, chromium, and lead, vehicle exhaust, sulfur dioxide, and fine dust from construction.

Common symptoms

  • Cold and cough
  • Respiratory disorder
  • Eye irritation
  • Burning sensation of chest
  • Lung damage
  • Asthma
  • Cancer

Air pollution and its effect on pregnancy

1. Maternal emotional stress

Studies (1) based on the exposure of pregnant ladies to gases like Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, and PM10 results in the development of maternal emotional stress. Prolonged exposure and increased concentration of SO2 that is sulfur dioxide lead to maternal depressive symptoms which ultimately affects fetal neurobehavioral development (2).

2. Preeclampsia and diabetes

According to a study done by Lund University in 2014, prolonged and increase exposure to nitrogen oxides lead to high chances of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. The mother who is exposed to a high level of nitrogen oxide and ozone increases the risk of Type 1 diabetes (3).

3. Preterm delivery

In a population-based cohort study (4) it was found that there is an increased risk of 19% preterm delivery on exposure to a high level of particulate pollution P.M. 2.5. In another study, it was found that exposure of pregnant ladies to high carbon monoxide also results in preterm delivery. Carbon monoxide reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of maternal hemoglobin which again adversely affects the baby (5).

4. Low birth weight

High PM 2.5 and Sulphur dioxide exposure also results in a high increase in low birth weight of newborn babies (5).

5. Impacts lung development

Air pollution indirectly affects the lung development of the fetus during pregnancy which results in premature birth, low immune, and low birth weight. Long-term air pollution has also been linked to decreasing in lung function of infants and children increases asthma and respiratory symptoms (6).

6. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Exposure to increased pollution especially PM 2.5 may cause autism disorder in newborns. Babies who are in their third trimester are more prone to this type of disorder (7).

How to protect from pollution during pregnancy:

Complete protection from pollution during pregnancy is almost not possible but minimum exposure is one of the best ways of protection. Some are as follow:

  1. Stay indoors as much as possible: We should not step out if the Air Quality Index (AQI) is above 200 as the approved AQI by WHO is 60.
  2. Use of electric and non-electric air purifiers: The use of air purifiers indoor also helps in the reduction of pollution particles and maintains the AQI.
  3. Use of mask when going outside
  4. Planting indoor air purifying plants: There are some plants which absorb harmful gases and soothes the indoor air like the snake plant, money plant, and areca palm plants
  5. Mopping instead of the use of brooms may helpful in controlling indoor pollution levels.


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