Beyond the infant in your arms: effects of climate change last for generations

Looking beyond the immediate relationships with fertility and live birth, climate changes have long-term impacts on parental and offspring health, including intergenerational effects.
Beyond the infant in your arms: effects of climate change last for generations

VOLUME 118, ISSUE 2, P224-229


Pauline Mendola, Ph.D., Sandie Ha, Ph.D.


Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. In addition to short-term reproductive health impacts, climate-related events will influence the risks of long-term and intergenerational mortality and morbidity for both birthing parents and offspring. As climate conditions continue to deteriorate in future generations, less healthy parents will give birth to less healthy offspring, who themselves will experience increased risk of reproductive outcomes. This intergenerational process causes a repeating cycle of poor parental preconception health, gestational complications, and poor offspring health, which leads to suboptimal preconception health among those offspring when they reach reproductive age. Because our ongoing efforts mostly focus on helping families achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy, a critical need to think beyond the infant in our arms and consider the long-term implications of climate change exists. Such efforts may involve policy strengthening efforts to reduce emissions, further engaging health care providers as active advocates, ensuring equitable and sustainable mitigation and adaptable strategies, and conducting more research that yields actionable data to guide policy efforts, especially in regions and populations most affected by climate change.

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