How are the Australian bushfires affecting pregnant women?

The recent fires in Australia are known to have had a huge effect on animal and human inhabitants. We’ve looked at the health risks they pose during pregnancy, and how to minimise them.

Bushfire smoke in Australia with women holding a mask over her face.

Image: NY Times

Pregnancy blog, 20/01/20 

With the bushfire crisis affecting many families in Australia, health experts are warning people across the country about the possible dangers of smoke exposure.

Pregnant people may feel the effects of smoke more than others because of the physical and hormonal changes to their body. Therefore, they should take extra care to look after themselves and reduce their exposure.

What are the risks of exposure to bushfire smoke during pregnancy?

Smoke exposure in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of:

5 ways to minimise risk of smoke exposure

Although these risks may be alarming, experts in Australia suggest the following to reduce them:

  1. Limit time spent outside, especially on days where smoke is visible.
  2. Shut windows and doors at home and when in the car.
  3. Set air conditioning units to ‘re-circulate’ (at home and in the car), rather than drawing in outside air.
  4. Avoid air pollution at home, including candles and cigarette smoke.
  5. Use a well-fitted 'P2' face mask when outdoors.

Using a face mask

If fitted correctly, with an air-tight seal around the nose and mouth, P2 masks can filter out very fine, potentially harmful, particles from the air.

Air purifiers

It might be a good idea to use an air purifier at home. It must have a high efficiency particle air filter (HEPA filter) and be the right size for your room, which should have well-sealed doors and windows.

Risk of premature birth

If you think you might be at risk of premature birth, knowing the signs of early labour can help.

What are the signs of early labour?

Before 37 weeks, you might be going into premature labour if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Pressure in your pelvis
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Period-like cramps
  • Pain in your back
  • Increase in vaginal discharge, a trickle or gush of fluid from your vagina.

Find out what to do if you think you’re in early labour.

Advice from a Tommy’s midwife

Our thoughts are with the families affected by the Australian bushfires and we urge pregnant women to take special care of themselves, listen to their bodies and speak to their healthcare team if they think something’s wrong.

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