Expert Alert

Heat's effect on pregnancy

[Left] Credit: Getty Images. [Right] Assistant Professor Audrey Dorélien.

In the coming days, much of the U.S., including the Twin Cities, will experience temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Audrey Dorélien, an assistant professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, shares how extreme heat can have negative impacts for pregnant people.

Audrey Dorélien
“Public health officials have long understood the risk of extreme heat for the elderly and young children, however, these officials and health providers should also warn pregnant people of the dangers of extreme heat exposure. One analogy is to think of how it is not recommended for pregnant people to be in saunas or hot tubs.

“Because of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy, pregnant people are more likely to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and are also more likely to become dehydrated. 

“Researchers are still trying to figure out the exact mechanisms by which heat stress during pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and birth outcomes, however, there is growing consensus that exposure to extreme heat/hot days can reduce rates of conception and increase a pregnant woman’s risk of early labor and having a low birth weight baby. 

“I am particularly concerned that in the U.S. not everyone has the equal ability to reduce their exposure to extreme heat. I worry that this has and will contribute to the racial disparities in maternal and birth outcomes. In my future research, I hope to address this factor.”

About Audrey Dorélien
Audrey Dorélien is an assistant professor in the global policy and the social policy & policy analysis areas and an affiliate of the Minnesota Population Center. Her research agenda strives to elucidate how human population dynamics and behavior intersect with environmental conditions to affect health. Her recent study, published in Population and Environment, found that on average, exposure to hot days around conception and during the first trimester were associated with significant increases in the probability of fetal loss; exposure during the third trimester was also associated with increased probability of miscarriages/still births. 


About the Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is ranked as one of the country’s top professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national and global levels and offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs. Learn more at

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