Seasonal patterns of birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, preterm birth and stillbirth, have been found around the world. As a result, there has been an increasing interest in evaluating short-term exposure to ambient temperature as a determinant of adverse birth outcomes. This paper reviews the epidemiological evidence on seasonality of birth outcomes and the impact of prenatal exposure to ambient temperature on birth outcomes. We identified 20 studies that investigated seasonality of birth outcomes, and reported statistically significant seasonal patterns. Most of the studies found peaks of preterm birth, stillbirth and low birth weight in winter, summer or both, which indicates the extremes of temperature may be an important determinant of poor birth outcomes. We identified 13 studies that investigated the influence of exposure to ambient temperature on birth weight and preterm birth (none examined stillbirth). The evidence for an adverse effect of high temperatures was stronger for birth weight than for preterm birth. More research is needed to clarify whether high temperatures have a causal effect on fetal health.
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