Association Between High Ambient Temperature and Risk of Stillbirth in California

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Recent studies have linked elevated apparent temperatures with adverse birth outcomes, such as preterm delivery, but other birth outcomes have not been well studied. We examined 8,510 fetal deaths (≥20 weeks’ gestation) to estimate their association with mean apparent temperature, a combination of temperature and humidity, during the warm season in California (May–October) from 1999 to 2009. Mothers whose residential zip codes were within 10 km of a meteorological monitor were included. Meteorological data were provided by the California Irrigation Management Information System, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Climatic Data Center, while the California Department of Public Health provided stillbirth data. Using a time-stratified case-crossover study design, we found a 10.4% change (95% confidence interval: 4.4, 16.8) in risk of stillbirth for every 10°F (5.6°C) increase in apparent temperature (cumulative average of lags 2–6 days). Risk varied by maternal race/ethnicity and was greater for younger mothers, less educated mothers, and male fetuses. The highest risks were observed during gestational weeks 20–25 and 31–33. No associations were found during the cold season (November–April), and the observed associations were independent of air pollutants. This study adds to the growing body of literature identifying pregnant women and their fetuses as subgroups vulnerable to heat exposure.

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