Mothers With Asthma Potentially At Higher Risk For Preterm Births

pregant woman posing outsidePregnant women with asthma may be at greater risk of preterm birth when exposed to high levels of certain traffic-related air pollutants, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

READ: 5 Things Black Women Should Know About Preterm Birth

The researchers observed an increased risk associated with both ongoing and short-term exposure to nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, particularly when women were exposed to those pollutants just before conception and in early pregnancy.

For example, an increase of 30 parts per billion in nitrogen oxide exposure in the three months prior to pregnancy increased preterm birth risk by nearly 30 percent for women with asthma, compared to 8 percent for women without asthma. Greater carbon monoxide exposure during the same period raised preterm birth risk by 12 percent for asthmatic women, but had no effect on preterm birth risk for non-asthmatics.

The last six weeks of pregnancy was another critical window for women with asthma, according to the researchers. Exposure to high levels of particulate matter—very small particles of substances like acids, metals, and dust in the air—also was associated with higher preterm birth risk.