Study: Exposure to air pollution in early pregnancy linked to miscarriage

Women exposed to common air pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter in early pregnancy may experience an increased risk of miscarriage, according to a study backed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

To assess the possible impact of air pollution on pregnancy, researchers tracked 501 couples attempting to conceive a child between 2005 and 2009 in Texas and Michigan. Researchers estimated the couples' exposure to air pollution based on documented pollution levels in their respective communities. Among the 343 women who became pregnant over the course of the study, 97 experienced a miscarriage in the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. Expectant mothers living in areas with higher ozone levels were 12 percent more likely to experience an early pregnancy loss. Women exposed to higher levels of particulate matter were 13 percent more likely to experience an early pregnancy loss.

"The researchers do not know why exposure to air pollutants might cause pregnancy loss, but it could be related to increased inflammation of the placenta and oxidative stress, which can impair fetal development," said the NIH in a release. "The findings suggest that pregnant women may want to consider avoiding outdoor activity during air quality alerts, but more research is needed to confirm this association."

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