How Air Pollution Affects a Pregnant Woman

The prolonged exposure to alarming levels of air pollution can adversely affect the health of pregnant women, and subsequently, it affects the development of the baby in the womb.

During pregnancy, an unborn baby receives nutrition from whatever mother eats and drinks through the placenta. The fetus receives the oxygen breathed in by the mother.

When the mother breathes in the polluted and toxic air, the air pollutants or contaminants are breathed into her body. These air contaminants cross the placenta and cause adverse effects on the placenta’s health and disrupt the healthy development of the baby.

Effects of Air Pollution During Pregnancy

The effects of air pollution on a pregnant woman and her baby depend on various factors, including the stage of baby’s development when the mother is exposed to polluted air, types of pollutants breathed in, and duration and concentration of air pollution.

Preterm Labour

Pregnant women exposed to air pollution before conception or during the initial few months of pregnancy are likely to have a premature birth. It is more prevalent in women

residing in polluted areas, who are at high risks of experiencing early or preterm birth.

Air pollution-induced preterm labour can lead to permanent physical disabilities, low birth weight, neurological disorders, and underdeveloped lungs in the newborn. Moreover, it may even lead to the baby’s death during birth or shortly after labour.

The findings of the study published in a leading journal, established a correlation between air pollution and preterm labour. It discusses the effect of various pollutants and suggests that the risk of preterm birth is usually highest during a subsequent pregnancy.


When a baby dies during the late months of pregnancy after 20 weeks, it is termed stillbirth or miscarriage. This is because the prolonged exposure to toxic air during pregnancy drastically increases the risks of stillbirth. Moreover, it causes lower fertility rates for women and men.

The findings of the study published in a leading journal, established a correlation between air pollution and stillbirth. This study suggests that the risk of miscarriage is usually highest during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Low Birth Weight

Exposure to air pollution may result in the birth of babies with low birth weight due to the disruption of the baby’s development in the womb. These babies are born unusually small with underdeveloped lungs and body parts.

The air pollutants induced restricted nutrient supply to the babies through the placenta is likely the reason for babies born with low birth weight. As a result, such babies experience numerous health issues and developmental delays after birth.

As per this study published in a leading scientific journal, the higher prevalence of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide is linked with high risks of babies born with low birth weight.

Asthma and Lung Development Issues

When pregnant women are exposed to toxic air for a long duration, they are likely to develop longer-term respiratory issues, including asthma and allergies. This may lead to a medical condition called preeclampsia.

Pregnant women with preeclampsia experience elevated blood pressure and reduced liver and kidney functions. This asthmatic condition may lead to reduced oxygen supply to the baby resulting in poor growth, low birth weight, and premature birth.

Moreover, air pollution may affect lung development in babies directly or indirectly.


Pregnant women exposed to high particulate matter during their third trimester are at high risks of delivering babies with autism.


The scientific fraternities across the world have conducted studies for establishing the correlation between exposure to air pollution and high risks of pregnancy-related complications.

The findings of studies suggest that air pollution can adversely affect pregnancy and may result in congenital abnormalities, stillbirth, preterm birth, and low birth weight in babies. Such incidences are more prevalent in pregnant women living in polluted areas.

Moreover, pregnant women exposed to indoor air pollution due to toxic particulate matter like cigarette smoke are at higher risks of experiencing negative pregnancy outcomes. This implies that air pollution causes health-related complications during pregnancy.

Megha Kothari

Megha leads the content strategy and oversees an amazing team of writers, editors, and designers, all having one goal in mind – to create brilliant content that helps people make the right purchase investment. When she is not working, you can find her enjoying making delicious food and planning her next travel.

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