Heat and Pregnancy: A Cause of Birth Defects

The CDC states that 5/1000 babies will have a heart birth defect. While we have made progress in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, prevention is a goal. Precautions against moms getting too hot have been part of routine obstetrical care for a long time as animal studies have linked hot temperatures to a variety of birth defects. None have ever really demonstrated this in human studies of climate exposures to heat. Known causes of birth defects such as genetic causes, problems with the cord causing circulation problems, infections with certain viruses, drug use and diabetes are known to increase the risk of complications, but mostly we do not know the cause of the most serious birth defects for instance most often the cause of heart defects is not known. New York Reuters Health Jul 2, 2013 just reported a study that looked at congenital heart defects and hot weather. It was thought that hot days could increase heart defects which have actually been declining in some parts of the world, including European babies. But warm weather is not linked to congenital heart defects, although, paradoxically, unseasonably hot winter days may be associated with the rarest heart defects and requires more study, according to a new study from Israel. This study was funded by the  Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, researchers examined about 1,600 cases of heart birth defects among more than 135,000 babies born from 2000 to 2006 according to the Reuters article, and they looked at weather where the moms lived. The researchers took into account the average outside temperature and "extreme heat events" during the third to eighth week of pregnancy, when the fetal heart starts to beat. There was no association between outside temperature and heart defects over the entire year, according to results published online June 5th in Human Reproduction. The other things that could affect whole populations of moms were not evaluated at the same time as this study. Vitamin intake is important, and perhaps abnormal temperatures affect nutrient content of fruits and vegetables, and it wasn't the heat variation. At Women's Health Practice we advise a pregnancy planning visit to evaluate all strategies that can help you personally reduce your chance of having a child with birth defects.

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