The influence of ambient temperature on birth outcomes in Brisbane, Australia

Strand, Linn Beate (2011) The influence of ambient temperature on birth outcomes in Brisbane, Australia. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Lately, there has been increasing interest in the association between temperature and adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth (PTB) and stillbirth. PTB is a major predictor of many diseases later in life, and stillbirth is a devastating event for parents and families. The aim of this study was to assess the seasonal pattern of adverse birth outcomes, and to examine possible associations of maternal exposure to temperature with PTB and stillbirth. We also aimed to identify if there were any periods of the pregnancy where exposure to temperature was particularly harmful. A retrospective cohort study design was used and we retrieved individual birth records from the Queensland Health Perinatal Data Collection Unit for all singleton births (excluding twins and triplets) delivered in Brisbane between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2009. We obtained weather data (including hourly relative humidity, minimum and maximum temperature) and air-pollution data (including PM10, SO2 and O3) from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management. We used survival analyses with the time-dependent variables of temperature, humidity and air pollution, and the competing risks of stillbirth and live birth. To assess the monthly pattern of the birth outcomes, we fitted month of pregnancy as a time-dependent variable. We examined the seasonal pattern of the birth outcomes and the relationship between exposure to high or low temperatures and birth outcomes over the four lag weeks before birth. We further stratified by categorisation of PTB: extreme PTB (< 28 weeks of gestation), PTB (28–36 weeks of gestation), and term birth (≥ 37 weeks of gestation). Lastly, we examined the effect of temperature variation in each week of the pregnancy on birth outcomes. There was a bimodal seasonal pattern in gestation length. After adjusting for temperature, the seasonal pattern changed from bimodal, to only one peak in winter. The risk of stillbirth was statistically significant lower in March compared with January. After adjusting for temperature, the March trough was still statistically significant and there was a peak in risk (not statistically significant) in winter. There was an acute effect of temperature on gestational age and stillbirth with a shortened gestation for increasing temperature from 15 °C to 25 °C over the last four weeks before birth. For stillbirth, we found an increasing risk with increasing temperatures from 12 °C to approximately 20 °C, and no change in risk at temperatures above 20 °C. Certain periods of the pregnancy were more vulnerable to temperature variation. The risk of PTB (28–36 weeks of gestation) increased as temperatures increased above 21 °C. For stillbirth, the fetus was most vulnerable at less than 28 weeks of gestation, but there were also effects in 28–36 weeks of gestation. For fetuses of more than 37 weeks of gestation, increasing temperatures did not increase the risk of stillbirth. We did not find any adverse affects of cold temperature on birth outcomes in this cohort. My findings contribute to knowledge of the relationship between temperature and birth outcomes. In the context of climate change, this is particularly important. The results may have implications for public health policy and planning, as they indicate that pregnant women would decrease their risk of adverse birth outcomes by avoiding exposure to high temperatures and seeking cool environments during hot days.

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ID Code: 47005
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Tong, Shilu, Fitzgerald, Gerard, & Barnett, Adrian
Keywords: climate change, competing risks survival model, pregnancy, preterm birth, stillbirth, seasonality, temperature, time-dependent variables, vulnerable periods
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 14 Nov 2011 05:20
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2011 14:19

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