NewsPregnancy and Newborn Health

Air Pollution Can Increase Risk of Pregnancy Complications

A recent study, conducted by University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers is the first to explore the risks that pregnant women face on chronic exposure to air pollution.


The placenta is important for a successful pregnancy and for maintaining the health of the mother and the offspring. Previous studies have analyzed the effects of air pollution on pregnancy. However, the studies did not utilize cell-specific procedures and did not focus on molecular signatures of the placenta.

About the study

In the present study, female mice were divided into two groups as follows:

  1. one group was exposed to environmental air pollutants nasally two months prior to conception and subsequently throughout pregnancy;
  2. the other group (control group) was exposed to normal saline (NS).

Tissue samples from both groups were analyzed by the team to elucidate the probable effects of air pollution on pregnant females and their offsprings.

Dr. Sherin Devaskar, lead author of the study and physician-in-chief at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA said, “The cellular changes we have observed could provide the missing link between exposure to air pollutants and adverse pregnancy outcomes, thereby helping to focus on developing preventive strategies for at-risk pregnancies.”

How does air pollution affect the placenta?

As air pollutants enter the lungs, the immune system becomes activated in an unhealthy manner which can ultimately affect the placenta. The immune activation can lead to the loss of placental vascular cells and could thereby affect the supply of food and nutrients to the offspring.

Exposure to air pollutants in pregnancy was associated with inflammation of the uterus lining. Some of the placental cells that are essential for maintaining its structure and most importantly, the flow of blood from the mother to the offspring are attacked by air pollutants. Of note, air pollution could also elevate the risk of serious pregnancy complications such as preterm births and uteroplacental insufficiency as observed in pre-eclampsia.

Results of the study

Overall, the study findings showed that chronic exposure to traffic-related air pollutants during pregnancy can cause cellular changes in the placenta which can lead to pregnancy complications and affect the health of both the mother and the infant. In the tissue samples, the inhaled air pollutants had compromised the composition of placental cells and their molecular signatures.

The research underscores the need for examining the timing of exposure and whether acute versus chronic exposures have different effects. The authors also plan to study dietary interventions for alleviation of distress on placental molecular signatures, development, and nutrient supply.


Anela Tosevska, Shubhamoy Ghosh, Amit Ganguly, Monica Cappelletti, Suhas G. Kallapur, Matteo Pellegrini, Sherin U. Devaskar. Integrated analysis of an in vivo model of intra-nasal exposure to instilled air pollutants reveals cell-type specific responses in the placenta. Scientific Reports, 2022; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-12340-z


Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Dr. Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Physician and Radiologist, M.DS (Oral Medicine and Radiology) from Mumbai. She strongly believes in evidence-based radiodiagnosis and therapeutic regimens for benign, potentially malignant, or malignant lesions and conditions either arising from the oral and maxillofacial structures or manifesting in the associated regions.

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