Cold Ambient Temperature in Utero and Birth Outcomes in Uppsala, Sweden, 1915 to 1929

Tim-Allen Bruckner, University of California, Irvine
Bitte Modin, Stockholm University
Denny Vågerö, Stockholm University

Although the literature finds adverse birth outcomes following exposure to ambient heat waves in utero, less work focuses on infant health following cold stress. We address this gap in the literature and employ rigorous methodology to test the relation between cold ambient temperature in utero and four perinatal outcomes. We examined 14,000 births in Uppsala, Sweden (1915 to 1929), a population that—-unlike most societies today—-experienced sub-standard indoor-heating and fewer amenities to provide shelter from ambient cold. Results, which control for season of birth, indicate that the risk of stillbirth (but not preterm) rises as ambient temperature over gestation falls. Infant birth length (but not birth weight) also declines with lower temperatures. In this historical population, cold stress adversely affects aspects of fetal development. Our work holds relevance to maternal-fetal biology as well as to contemporary societies (e.g., indigenous Arctic populations) with limited resources to mitigate the adverse consequences of cold.

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Presented in Session 157: Spatial and Environmental Factors Influencing Infant and Child Health