Maternal cumulative exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, prematurity and small for gestational age: a pooled analysis of two birth cohorts

Occup Environ Med. 2020 Jan;77(1):22-31. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-105785.


Background: Data on the effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) on pregnancy outcomes are inconclusive.

Objective: To study the relation between maternal cumulative exposure to ELF-EMF during pregnancy and the risk of prematurity or small for gestational age (SGA) in a pooled analysis of two French birth cohorts.

Methods: Elfe and Epipage2 are both population-based birth cohorts initiated in 2011 and included 18 329 and 8400 births, respectively. Health data and household, mother and child characteristics were obtained from medical records and questionnaires at maternity and during follow-up. A job exposure matrix was used to assess cumulative exposure to ELF-EMF during three periods: (1) until 15 weeks of gestation, (2) until 28 weeks of gestation and (3) until 32 weeks of gestation. Analyses were restricted to single live births in mainland France and to mothers with documented jobs (N=19 894). Adjusted logistic regression models were used.

Results: According to the period studied, 3.2%-4% of mothers were classified as highly exposed. Results were heterogeneous. Increased risks of prematurity were found among low exposed mothers for the three periods, and no association was observed among the most exposed (OR1=0.92 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.15); OR2=0.98 (95% CI 0.80 to 1.21); OR3=1.14 (95% CI 0.92 to 1.41)). For SGA, no association was observed with the exception of increased risk among the low exposed mothers in period 2 and the most exposed in period 3 (OR=1.25 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.53)).

Conclusion: Some heterogeneous associations between ELF-EMF exposure and prematurity and SGA were observed. However, due to heterogeneity (ie, their independence regarding the level of exposure), associations cannot be definitely explained by ELF-EMF exposure.

Keywords: extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields; maternal exposure; occupational exposure; prematurity; small for gestational age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult