Women who get more sunlight in their first trimester reduce the chances of developing problems with the placenta associated with preterm labor and loss of the baby, the researchers say.
The probability that women exposed to the lowest available sunlight would give birth prematurely was 10 percent higher than women who experienced the highest levels, the team found.
Experts from the University of Edinburgh analyzed maternity care data for nearly 400,000 mothers and more than 500,000 babies born after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Maternity records for all live births in Scotland between 2000 and 2010 were checked against postal code specific meteorological records from the same period.
Sun exposure in the second trimester was not shown to have any impact on the risk of premature birth.
The researchers say their findings, which were independent of other risk factors like age and smoking, could help shape advice given to families during pregnancy.
The team says more work is needed to better understand the link between sunlight and premature birth. He is already investigating whether artificial light can improve pregnancy health, to benefit parents in places with little sunlight.
Complications caused by preterm birth, defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are the leading cause of death in children under five years of age.
Survivors of preterm birth have higher rates of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems, than those born at term.
The team hopes that further research can help develop ways to reduce preterm birth and subsequent infant morbidity and mortality.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh had previously shown that when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, a compound, called nitric oxide, is released into our blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure.
This earlier work suggested that exposure to sunlight improves overall health, because the benefits of lowering blood pressure far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer.
Sunlight also directly contributes to the production of vitamin D, which helps the development of the fetus’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
Previous research from the same group has shown that sunnier areas are associated with fewer deaths from COVID-19, and that greater exposure to sunlight is linked to lower blood pressure and fewer heart attacks.
“The role of sunlight is an exciting new avenue for preterm birth prevention research. This study is important because it provides more data that reminds us that sunlight has health benefits as well as risks,” he says Dr Sarah Stock, Lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Health at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh.
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Lauren Megaw et al, greater exposure to the sun in the first trimester is associated with a reduction in preterm labor; A Scottish population cohort study using linked maternity and meteorological records, Frontiers in reproductive health (2021). DOI: 10.3389 / frph.2021.674245
Provided by the University of Edinburgh
Citation: Sun’s rays can reduce the risk of premature birth (2021, August 24) retrieved August 24, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-08-sun-rays-premature-birth.html
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