Maternal factors and risk of spontaneous preterm birth due to high ambient temperatures in New South Wales, Australia

Publication Name

Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology


Background: Exposure to high ambient temperatures has been shown to increase the risk of spontaneous preterm birth. Determining which maternal factors increase or decrease this risk will inform climate adaptation strategies. Objectives: This study aims to assess the risk of spontaneous preterm birth associated with exposure to ambient temperature and differences in this relationship between mothers with different health and demographic characteristics. Methods: We used quasi-Poisson distributed lag non-linear models to estimate the effect of high temperature—measured as the 95th percentile of daily minimum, mean and maximum compared with the median—on risk of spontaneous preterm birth (23–36 weeks of gestation) in pregnant women in New South Wales, Australia. We estimated the cumulative lagged effects of daily temperature and analyses on population subgroups to assess increased or decreased vulnerability to this effect. Results: Pregnant women (n = 916,678) exposed at the 95th percentile of daily mean temperatures (25ºC) had an increased risk of preterm birth (relative risk 1.14, 95% confidence interval 1.07, 1.21) compared with the median daily mean temperature (17℃). Similar effect sizes were seen for the 95th percentile of minimum and maximum daily temperatures compared with the median. This risk was slightly higher among women with diabetes, hypertension, chronic illness and women who smoked during pregnancy. Conclusions: Higher temperatures increase the risk of preterm birth and women with pre-existing health conditions and who smoke during pregnancy are potentially more vulnerable to these effects.

Open Access Status

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Funding Sponsor

NSW Ministry of Health



Link to publisher version (DOI)