Greater risk for babies born during natural disasters
Pregnant women exposed to natural disasters such as volcanoes are more likely to give birth prematurely, according to a new study. The study showed that along with an increased likelihood of pre-and early-term birth, the babies of those women evacuated were also born shorter.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study among women from villages near the Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, which has been active since 2010.

They compared an “exposed” sample of women who were pregnant when forced to evacuate their villages due to the volcanic eruptions and an “unexposed” sample of non-evacuees matched for age and year of child's birth. They collected anthropometric data and conducted structured interviews about pregnancy outcomes and evacuation-related stress.

- Evacuation led to an almost five-fold increase in the adjusted odds of having an early or preterm birth in non-imputed and multiply imputed analyses.

- It also led to approximately a 1 cm decrease in birth length in the non-imputed and multiply imputed analyses, both including controls for confounders.

- They found decreasing birth length with increasing stress among evacuees. There was no discernible effect of evacuation or stress on the other outcomes.

In particular, both adverse effects we documented can exert negative influences on later-in-life outcomes for children of women pregnant during evacuation.

American Journal of Human Biology