Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Reproductive and Birth Outcomes

Reproductive and Birth Outcomes and the Environment

Our understanding of risk factors for reproductive problems such as infertility, low birth weight, prematurity, fetal and infant death has increased over the past decades. There is still much we do not know. One big question is what role do environmental exposures play in reproductive and infant health problems? Although we have identified many risks related to several substances found in the environment, research in this area has been inconsistent. Some studies have found increased rates of birth problems while other studies have found no effect. Still, there are some environmental factors that may impact a woman's reproductive health:

  • Exposure of nonsmoking pregnant women to environmental tobacco smoke (also known as secondhand smoke) may be a risk factor for preterm birth, low birth weight, and possibly fetal death (miscarriage).
  • Exposure to some forms of air pollution (carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide) have been related to both low birth weight and preterm birth, even at low levels. A pregnant woman's exposure to lead may cause preterm birth, low birth weight, and spontaneous fetal death (miscarriage).
  • Exposure to pesticides (herbicides, organochlorides, and organophosphates) has been associated with fetal death (miscarriage) and babies being born too small.

A mother laying in hospital bed holding her newborn baby with doctors looking onOccupational (work) exposure to pesticides may also be associated with intrauterine growth retardation and fetal death but more data is needed. Social conditions such as poverty, crime, poor health before pregnancy, and lack of access to medical care may cause birth problems. Yet, few studies have looked at how exposure or co-exposure to many environmental pollutants and social conditions together can affect birth outcomes.


Top of Page


External Web Site Policy This symbol means you are leaving the Web site. For more information, please see CDC's Exit Notification and Disclaimer policy.

Copyrighted images: Images on this website which are copyrighted were used with permission of the copyright holder and are not in the public domain. CDC has licensed these images for use in the materials provided on this website, and the materials in the form presented on this website may be used without seeking further permission. Any other use of copyrighted images requires permission from the copyright holder. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 -

Tracking A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #
Tracking A-Z
Glossary A-Z