If you’re pregnant and live near a major roadway, it may be time to move. According to a recent Japanese study, women who live near major, heavily-trafficked roads were more likely to give birth prematurely, perhaps due to traffic-related air pollution.
The study, which was conducted by the Okayama Graduate School of Medicine, researched over 14,000 births in Shizuoka, Japan between 1997 and 2008. They determined pregnant women who live within 200 meters of a major road have babies in under 37 weeks (a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks) 15 percent of the time. In contrast, women who don’t live near a major road don’t make it to 37 weeks 10 percent of the time.
Top researcher Takashi Yorifuji and his team feel that a major reason for this disparity could be noise pollution, but still think that it is still too early to see a clear link.
Other factors that have been tied to preterm birth include age, job, and smoking. But even after accounting for those, the study found a 50 percent increase in preterm births among women living next to highly trafficked thoroughfares.
“In addition, we found a higher risk in housewives than outside workers, and housewives would probably spend more time at home during their pregnancy, and reflect more accurate exposure,” said Yorifuji.
The team also found that women living close to busy roads also had about double the risk of both high blood pressure and early rupture of the membranes surrounding the fetus, both potential causes of prematurity.