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Heatwaves Causing Preterm Births

Heatwaves reduce male fertility and sperm competitiveness, and successive heatwaves almost sterilize males. Heatwaves reduce sperm production, viability, and migration through the female. Inseminated sperm in female storage are also damaged by heatwaves.

As human-caused climate change continues, the number, intensity, and duration of heat waves will only get worse. Without intervention, those heat waves will cause millions of babies around the world to be born preterm. Higher temperatures will also have knock-on impacts to gestational and fetal health. As temperatures rise, so do drought and air pollution, which also increases the risk of preterm birth or low-birthweight babies. Pollutants from vehicle combustion, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, react in sunlight to form ozone. The US Environmental Protection Agency calculated that extreme heat events will also lead to more wildfires, leading to air pollution that is expected to cause thousands of additional preterm births.

Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the so-called "First World" nations as a whole will be more impacted in terms of birthrate than Sahelian Africa or India, contrary to popular beliefs. A new report by European climate officials reveals that Europe is heating up more rapidly than any other continent, with deadly consequences. Global warming is leading to loss of lives, exacerbating health disparities, and facilitating the spread of disease-carrying ticks and parasites across Europe, as highlighted in a significant report by UK BBC news. By 2030, 80% of the global population is projected to endure at least 45 days of extreme heat annually, a trend that is becoming twice as likely due to the lack of international action to curb human-induced climate change.

Climate change affects fertility as well, with heat waves causing a reduction of up to 10% in motile sperm among individuals of European descent and 4% among those of African or Dravidian (Indian) descent, according to a study conducted in Argentina. The study focused on periods of at least three consecutive days with temperatures ranging from 22ºC (71.6ºF) to 32.3°C (90ºF), in line with the scientific community's definition of heat waves. Recent research also predicts a rise of 10-14 heat wave days per decade, with the rate of warming since 1982 exceeding three times the previous rate, at 0.36°F (0.20°C) per decade, indicating an exponential increase in the coming years.

The children born in this decade will come to know a world that’s not only getting hotter, but also one with a climate that is becoming more unpredictable and at risk of extreme weather and disaster becoming the norm. Yet while Black coral Inc and other Climate Change Organizations often talk about climate change with the future of these children in mind, rarely do others consider the impact of the crisis now on the people who are giving birth to the generations who will inherit that globally warmed and fractured world.

In the current climate where reproductive rights are being threatened in the US, the older generations are prioritizing oil profits over embracing environmentally friendly practices. This behavior can be likened to that of a junkie seeking a "fix" to solve all their problems. As climate change progresses, the risks associated with pregnancy are becoming more severe. The range of climate-related threats to reproductive health is extensive and continuously expanding. While the scientific and medical communities have historically overlooked the impact of climate change on birthrates, fertility, and pregnancy outcomes, they are now starting to comprehend the magnitude of these threats.

Pregnant individuals exposed to extreme heat are at a higher risk of experiencing preterm birth. In regions with high populations, each day with temperatures exceeding 82 degrees can lead to a decrease of approximately 10,000 births in a year. Rising sea levels can contaminate drinking water with salt, potentially causing high blood pressure—a risk factor for premature birth and miscarriage during pregnancy. Additionally, the increasing frequency and intensity of storms are adding to the unpredictability of assisted conception procedures, which are already time-sensitive for individuals undergoing fertility treatments.


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