Murder, Birth and Test Results: What We've Learned About Extreme Heat

Heat waves are associated with a higher risk of babies being born prematurely, as well as stillbirth. In California, researchers found that babies were more likely to be born before reaching full term if their mothers endured an 'extreme heat episode' in the last week of pregnancy.

“Heat acts as a trigger for preterm birth,” said Tarik Benmarhnia, an environmental epidemiologist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Benmarhnia said scientists have suggested several possible mechanisms behind that result, including the effects of extreme heat on placental blood flow, inflammatory response and dehydration.

Extreme heat has also been linked to a Higher risk of pregnant patients suffering from conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, researchers have discovered.

And after a baby is born, Strehlow said, “it's not clear whether extreme heat decreases actual breast milk production or whether it's just dehydration” that causes that outcome, he said, but it's clear that when women are faced with extreme heat and have trouble cooling off, they report that “breastfeeding suffers.”

A florist on Forest Lawn Drive takes a break in a patch of shade.

(Zoe Cranfill / Los Angeles Times)

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