Extreme temperatures may lead to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including low birthweight. Studies on the impact of temperature on birthweight have been inconclusive due to methodological challenges related to operationalizing temperature exposure, the definitions of exposure windows, accounting for gestational age, and a limited geographic scope.
We combined data on individual-level term live births (N≈15 million births) from urban areas in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico from 2010 to 2015 from the SALURBAL study (Urban Health in Latin America) with high-resolution daily air temperature data and computed average ambient temperature for every month of gestation for each newborn. Associations between full-term birthweight and average temperature during gestation were analyzed using multi-level distributed lag non-linear models that adjusted for newborn's sex, season of conception, and calendar year of child's birth; controlled for maternal age, education, partnership status, presence of previous births, and climate zone; and included a random term for the sub-city of mother's residence.
Higher temperatures during the entire gestation are associated with lower birthweight, particularly in Mexico and Brazil. The cumulative effect of temperature on birthweight is mostly driven by exposure to higher temperatures during months 7-9 of gestation. Higher maternal education can attenuate the temperature-birthweight associations.
Our work shows that climate-health impacts are likely to be context- and place-specific and warrants research on temperature and birthweight in diverse climates to adequately anticipate global climate change. Given the high societal cost of suboptimal birthweight, public health efforts should be aimed at diminishing the detrimental effect of higher temperatures on birthweight.
The Wellcome Trust.