Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Many populations experience high seasonal temperatures. Pregnant women are considered vulnerable to extreme heat because ambient heat exposure has been linked to pregnancy complications including preterm birth and low birthweight. The physiological mechanisms that underpin these associations are poorly understood. We reviewed the existing research evidence to clarify the mechanisms that lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes in order to inform public health actions. A multi-disciplinary expert group met to review the existing evidence base and formulate a consensus regarding the physiological mechanisms that mediate the effect of high ambient temperature on pregnancy. A literature search was conducted in advance of the meeting to identify existing hypotheses and develop a series of questions and themes for discussion. Numerous hypotheses have been generated based on animal models and limited observational studies. There is growing evidence that pregnant women are able to appropriately thermoregulate; however, when exposed to extreme heat, there are a number of processes that may occur which could harm the mother or fetus including a reduction in placental blood flow, dehydration, and an inflammatory response that may trigger preterm birth. There is a lack of substantial evidence regarding the processes that cause heat exposure to harm pregnant women. Research is urgently needed to identify what causes the adverse outcomes in pregnancy related to high ambient temperatures so that the impact of climate change on pregnant women can be mitigated.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Biometeorology

Publication Date