Climate change, propelled by extreme weather conditions such as elevated temperatures and heightened rainfall, is being warned by maternal health experts as a potential catalyst for increased rates of miscarriage and preterm deliveries. The harsh reality of these weather extremes, coupled with environmental pollution, can wield a negative impact on both pregnant women and their unborn children, potentially inducing dehydration, heat stroke, and discomfort.
Of particular concern is the situation in Nigeria, a nation already wrestling with some of the worst maternal and child mortality rates on a global scale. The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey reported a Maternal Mortality Ratio of 512 deaths per 100,000 live births. Health professionals such as Professor Uchenna Onwudiegwu and Professor Christopher Aimakhu express their concern that extreme weather can instigate severe health issues such as miscarriages before 20 weeks of gestation or preterm births leading to underdeveloped organs and low birth weight.
Ripple Effects of Climate Change on Maternal Health
Such conditions can initiate a chain of additional complications like jaundice or brain damage in neonates. Climate change also escalates the risk of disasters like flooding and wildfires, endangering pregnant women by disrupting their antenatal care and nutrition, which can potentially trigger anaemia. Pregnant women suffering from asthma may encounter increased attacks in polluted surroundings, impacting fetal growth and leading to congenital malformations.
To safeguard pregnant women, experts implore governments to craft policies specifically addressing the needs of this vulnerable group during extreme weather events and to prioritize their evacuation and care during emergencies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognized climate change as a significant threat to maternal health, particularly for pregnant women and children. It underscores the urgent need for countries to address climate change’s impact on maternal and child health in their response plans.
Ultimately, climate change poses a significant challenge to pregnant women and their unborn children, necessitating proactive measures to safeguard their well-being during extreme weather events and environmental challenges. As we navigate through the complexities of climate change, it is crucial to keep advocating for the root causes and the importance of financing and scaling up investments to build climate-resilient health systems and communities.