In a first of its kind, a research has estimated the impact of poor air quality associated with considerable portion of pregnancy loss.
A recent study published in The Lancet, has shown that women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who are exposed to poor air quality face a higher risk of stillbirths and miscarriages.
The study notes that South Asia accounts for highest pregnancy loss globally and is one of the polluted regions in the world with exposure to PM2·5. An estimated 349,681 pregnancy loss were recorded per year in South Asia due to exposure to PM2·5 concentrations, accounting for 7% of annual pregnancy loss between 2000-2016.
This has exceeded India’s air quality standard of 40 micrograms per cublic metre of small particulate matter.
According to the study, for air pollution above WHO air quality guideline, exposure may have contributed to 29% of pregnancy losses.
Study lead author Tao Xue said “Our findings suggest that poor air quality could be responsible for a considerable burden of pregnancy loss in the region, providing further justification for urgent action to tackle dangerous levels of pollution.”
The survey included 34,197 women who had lost a pregnancy, including 27,480 miscarriages and 6,717 stillbirths and compared to live birth controls.
Combining satellite with atmospheric modelling outputs, the data from households surveys on health from 1998-2016(women who reported at least one pregnancy loss and one or more live births) and estimated exposure to PM2·5 during pregnancy.
Of the pregnancy loss cases, 77% were from India, 12% from Pakistan, while Bangladesh recorded 11% of such cases, knocking-on the mental, physical and economic effects on women.
The researchers have noted several limitations in the study as they could not distinguish between natural pregnancy loss and abortions, added with under-reporting cases due to stigma attached.
Gestational exposure to PM2·5 was associated with an increased likelihood of pregnancy loss, and this remained significant after adjusting for other factors. Each increase in 10 μg/m³ was estimated to increase a mother’s risk of pregnancy loss by 3%.