Pregnant women need to limit exposure to air pollution since it can increase the risk of miscarriage by almost 50 per cent.
A study by researchers from Beijing, published in the journal Nature Sustainbility, analysed records of more than a quarter of a million pregnant women living in the Chinese capital between 2009-17.
According to researchers, the presence of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of sulphur dioxide in the air, emitted from power plants and vehicles exhausts, increased the chances of miscarriage by 41 per cent. A further increase of air pollutants resulted in a 52 per cent risk.
The researchers found a direct link between the levels of toxic chemicals in the air from the burning of fossil fuels and the number of cases of what are called “missed miscarriages”, where the pregnant woman does not immediately exhibit symptoms.
“Pregnant women or those who want to become pregnant must protect themselves from air pollution exposure not only for their own health but also for the health of their foetuses,” lead author Professor Liqiang Zhang was quoted as saying.
“This study explores the risk associated with a silent, or missed miscarriage, in the first trimester. Overall, 6.8 per cent of women experienced this, and they were more likely to do so if they lived in more polluted areas,” added consultant obstetrician Dr Patrick O’Brien.
Experts in the past also studied how consumption of pollutants during pregnancy can cause chronic irritation of the respiratory tract. Air pollution particles were also found to penetrate the placental barrier and reach the unborn baby, impacting foetal development, including low birth weight, oxidative stress, DNA damage or alteration of immune cell population. Pregnant women, therefore, need to keep their surroundings clean and dust-free and install air purifiers, for instance.