Extreme Temperatures and Fetal Health: The Impacts of High Heat Exposure in the United States
Calma, Emilia Lucia
This paper examines the effect high heat on fetal health. It expands the set of outcomes beyond the commonly used measure of birthweight to include abnormal birth conditions and congenital abnormalities. The analysis is based on individual-level dataon 20 million births that includes the demographic characteristics of mothers, birth county, date of birth between 2014 and 2018, and exploits county-level changes in temperature and fetal health. The results show that prenatal exposure to high heat does not substantively affect abnormal fetal conditions and chromosomal disorders and is not associated with reduced gestation time. This finding may be driven by the relatively short duration of the data. As climate change brings increased frequency and severity of heat waves to present-day United States, however, the prospect of more serious impacts on fetal health remains.
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