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How Air Pollution Impacts Pregnant Women and Their Babies

November 16, 2022

Air pollution is one of the biggest health hazards we as humankind are facing today. Despite all the efforts to reduce pollution, the air quality seems to be dipping every time it is checked. When you read an article on air pollution, you are bound to learn new causes and effects of pollution, every single time. Such are the harmful effects of air pollution today.

Though we all predominantly debate about causes of air pollution, effects of air pollution and steps to reduce pollution, the effect of air pollutants on pregnancy is not discussed enough. This article on air pollution aims to bridge this gap by highlighting the connection between air pollution and pregnancy.

Air Pollution and Pregnancy

The quality of the air you breathe in every day can have a big impact on everything related to pregnancy. Some of the common effects of air pollution on pregnancy can be further classified into:

  • Air Pollution and Fertility

The impact of pollution on fertility is on multiple levels. According to some studies, continued exposure to air contaminants can reduce the number of eggs maturing in the ovaries or even affect the quality of the eggs.

When it comes to males, air pollution can affect sperm quality. Air pollutants in the environment release ROS – Reactive Oxygen Species. Sperms can suffer oxidative stress due to this ROS, which in turn can result in the fragmentation of the DNA. The higher the DNA damage, the higher the chances of facing fertility issues.

The adverse effects of air pollution can also impair the embryo’s quality, which can lead to miscarriages or birth defects.

  • Air Pollution and Miscarriage

Wondering how can poor air quality cause miscarriages? If the pregnant woman is continuously exposed to air pollution or poor air quality, it can negatively impact pregnancy viability and maintenance. It can lead to a miscarriage or affect foetal growth.

The chances of miscarriage increase if the air pollution is high during the time of implantation. It can be either natural or through IVF; in both cases, the low air quality or exposure to small pollutants can prevent the embryo from attaching itself to the uterine wall.

  • Air Pollution and Early Pregnancy

Studies show that short-term exposure to particulate matter in the air at the time of implantation can have a negative impact on the pregnancy. While not every pregnant woman is affected by air pollution problems, in some cases, it can lead to a miscarriage. Studies also show that short-term exposure to air pollution can have detrimental effects on women undergoing IVF treatments. Now, one cannot completely avoid air pollution if the place they live in has poor air quality. Researchers suggest, in such cases, the fertility specialist must refrain from planning a transfer of the embryo when air pollution is expected to hit its peak in that area.

Though the air quality inside the treatment Centre can be great due to the various filters in place, the woman will have to step out and get back to her surroundings when the implantation occurs and it may not have a favorable outcome.

Can Air Pollution Cause Birth Defects?

So, we saw the various harmful effects of pollution on pregnancy and fertility, but what about the effects of air pollution on the unborn child? Many would wonder can air pollution cause birth defects. Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Despite the baby being safe behind so many layers, inside the womb, the bad effects of air pollution on living things and the environment do not spare even the foetus. Some of the harmful effects of pollution on the foetus are:

  • Preterm delivery – Baby is born before completing 37 weeks.
  • Small Babies – Air pollutants may prevent the baby from gaining weight or developing all organs fully. As a result, the baby can be small or underweight.
  • Death – Sometimes, if the pregnant woman is constantly exposed to heavy air pollution, it can result in the baby dying after birth.

Smog Pollution and Pregnancy

There is an increasing concern over smog in the air we breathe in. Have you ever wondered about the effects of smog on pregnancy or the baby?

Pregnant women are more prone to damage to their health by smog. Apart from its impact on the expecting mother, smog can affect the baby too. It can lead to hypertension, cardiac arrest, or type 2 diabetes. If the mother is exposed to smog for a short or a long time during her pregnancy, it may have a lasting impact on the baby’s health, after birth.

However, the study was not very consistent and so, one cannot say for sure about the impact of smog pollution on either the pregnant mother or the baby, be it for the short term or long term. But, it is always advisable to be safe than take a chance when it comes to pregnancy.


Despite knowing a lot about the various causes of air pollution and the effects of air pollution on pregnancy, many of us tend to ignore the adverse health effects of air pollution. Even if you cannot reduce city pollution or nature pollution, you can consciously reduce indoor air pollution when pregnant. Ensure the air quality around you is good throughout the pregnancy, and avoid unnecessary health problems caused by air pollution.


1) Is smog harmful to pregnancy?

Exposure of pregnant women to smog can lead to gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension or even premature rupture of membranes due to an underlying infection or inflammation in the body.

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