Ambient air pollution and the risk of pregnancy loss: a prospective cohort study

Exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone during pregnancy may increase the risk of pregnancy loss in a prospective pregnancy study with detailed protocols for ovulation and pregnancy testing.
Ambient air pollution and the risk of pregnancy loss: a prospective cohort study

Sandie Ha, Ph.D., Rajeshwari Sundaram, Ph.D., Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D., Carrie Nobles, Ph.D., Indulaxmi Seeni, B.S., Seth Sherman, Ph.D., Pauline Mendola, Ph.D.



To estimate the association of pregnancy loss with common air pollutant exposure. Ambient air pollution exposure has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes, but few studies have investigated its relationship with pregnancy loss.


Prospective cohort study.


Not applicable.


A total of 343 singleton pregnancies in a multisite prospective cohort study with detailed protocols for ovulation and pregnancy testing.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Timing of incident pregnancy loss (from ovulation).


The incidence of pregnancy loss was 28% (n = 98). Pollutant levels at women's residences were estimated using modified Community Multiscale Air Quality models and averaged during the past 2 weeks (acute) and the whole pregnancy (chronic). Adjusted Cox proportional hazards models showed that an interquartile range increase in average whole pregnancy ozone (hazard ratio [HR] 1.12, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–1.17) and particulate matter <2.5 μm (HR 1.13, 95% CI 1.03–1.24) concentrations were associated with faster time to pregnancy loss. Sulfate compounds also appeared to increase risk (HR 1.58, 95% CI 1.07–2.34). Last 2 weeks of exposures were not associated with loss.


In a prospective cohort of couples trying to conceive, we found evidence that exposure to air pollution throughout pregnancy was associated with loss, but delineating specific periods of heightened vulnerability await larger preconception cohort studies with daily measured air quality.

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Go to the profile of Mary Samplaski
about 5 years ago

This is compelling data, which makes a lot of sense. Do we know how many of these women were taking a prenatal vitamin? Were smokers excluded? Larger series would be interesting to determine if taking a vitamin would mitigate this effect. 

Go to the profile of Pauline Mendola
about 5 years ago

Thanks for the comment!  We agree it would be very interesting to see these findings replicated in a larger study.  Our analysis accounts for cotinine levels and vitamin intake, so those factors would seem to be independent of the air pollution effects.  Cotinine levels were higher (but not significantly so) in women with losses but they were less likely to take a daily multivitamin.