Extreme Temperatures May Increase Risk for Low Birth Weight at Term

A National Institutes of Health study of US Women shows that extreme temperatures throughout pregnancy causes low birth weight of the newborn baby. The condition occurs when temperatures are either abnormally warm or cold during the third trimester or for the entire pregnancy. It is recommended that pregnant women limit their time out in extreme weather.

Low birth weight is a condition where an infant’s weight is less than five and half pounds. Low weight may cause a premature birth. It is also possible that the infant is born on time but still weighs less. The infant is more likely to experience delayed development or infections from this condition. Some infants may otherwise grow healthy, however, it is also possible that other health conditions cause the low birth weight and not necessarily extreme temperatures.

The risk is much greater when exposure to abnormally high temperatures occurs throughout pregnancy rather than in the third trimester only. Though it is not certain why this causes low birth weight, there are some possibilities. One reason is may be increased inflammation. Another is restricted blood flow to the uterus, causing nutrient deprivation and reduced ability to remove waste from the fetus.

This research supports findings in previous studies.

Key Points:

  • 1Less than five and a half pounds is considered to be a low birth weight and can occur whether a baby is born prematurely, or not.
  • 2Low birth babies can be prone to more infections and developmental delays.
  • 3Excessive heat, which may contribute to low birth weight, may do so because it leads to inflammation and potentially increasing oxidative stress.


The authors found that exposure to atypically cold temperature during the entire pregnancy, or just during the second trimester and third trimester, increased the risk for low birth weight.
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HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

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