As I sit here on call on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023, writing this blog post, I am reflecting about the last 48 straight hours of rainfall as well as the crazy weather shifts going on at the Masters golf tournament this weekend. I started thinking about weather and temperature changes and pregnancies and the passing comments the doctors make to each other like “Good luck, big storm coming in tonight, be ready for some water to break.” Is there a connection between the weather and your pregnancy? Does water break more often with pressure changes in the weather? Do more women go into labor with storms? Let’s take a closer look.
To keep things simple, because God knows I am not a meteorologist, high barometric pressure is associated in general with nice sunny and dry weather and low barometric pressure brings wet and cloudy conditions. Many people feel that the lowering of barometric pressure leads to more onset of labor or rupture of membranes. I mean, even the labor and delivery nurses and the doctors joke about it all the time. However, in a study published in 1995 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology the authors concluded, “Although there was an observed statistically significant association between falling barometric pressure and onset of labor, the magnitude of the difference is not of clinical significance.” So basically, no real difference was noted with the number of women presenting in labor during periods of barometric pressure change! It is kind of like the “full moon,” more of an old wive’s tale.
Let’s stick with the topic of weather and talk about extremes in temperature, i.e. very hot or very cold conditions. Fortunately, we do not have these conditions in Raleigh, but a recent study suggests there may be a risk of lower birth weights in women who live in the extremes of temperature. The authors hypothesized that the extremes of weather could affect (decrease) blood flow to the uterus. As a pregnant patient, you cannot control the weather or where you live, but you can make sure to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you do this, the weather, at least what we have in North Carolina, should not affect your pregnancy.
What’s my personal take on North Carolina weather and your pregnancy? I like the idea of my pregnant patients being active and outdoors. Staying active decreases the risk of pregnancy-related hypertension, gestational diabetes, and cesarean delivery. In the hottest of hot summer days and the coldest of cold winter stays, maybe limit the time in the extremes. But being outside is good for you, the air is much fresher than that indoors, even in your own house. So please do not “fear” the weather. When we get our one to two frozen days a year, please be careful. We have several pregnant women fall each year on the ice, and while most end up fine, it is always stressful for expecting moms to take a tumble.