Expecting worse: Giving birth on a planet in crisis | Grist

Source: Expecting worse: Giving birth on a planet in crisis | Grist

International climate change panels often point out that women are more vulnerable to climate change than men. Hotter temperatures and more volatile weather inflame existing gender-based vulnerabilities, like domestic violence, inadequate access to health care, and financial insecurity. But there is another, largely invisible layer of climate impacts that falls along gendered lines: Research shows that climate change takes a profound physical toll on bodies that can bear children — from menstruation to conception to birth.  

There are various pathways by which climate change worsens health problems before, during, and after pregnancy. A pregnant person’s immune system stands down during those crucial nine months so as not to reject the growing fetus, leaving the gestating parent more susceptible to climate-driven infectious diseases like malaria. Exposure to extreme heat during pregnancy increases the likelihood of preterm birth, although the biological mechanism behind this relationship is still poorly understood. Sea level rise infuses drinking water with salt, which can lead to high blood pressure — a risk factor during pregnancy for premature birth and miscarriage. And for those who have access to fertility treatment, which involves highly time-sensitive procedures, increasingly massive and intense storms are making assisted conception unpredictable. 

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