June 16, 2024

International panels on climate change often point this out women are more vulnerable to climate change than men. Warmer temperatures and more erratic weather exacerbate existing gender-based vulnerabilities such as domestic violence, inadequate access to health care, and financial insecurity. But there’s another, largely invisible layer of climate impacts that falls along gender lines: Research shows that climate change is taking a huge physical toll on bodies that can bear children — from menstruation to conception to birth.

There are several pathways through which climate change exacerbates health problems before, during and after pregnancy. A pregnant person’s immune system goes down during those crucial nine months to avoid rejecting the growing fetus, making the pregnant parent more susceptible to climate-driven infectious diseases such as malaria. Exposure to extreme heat during pregnancy increases the likelihood of preterm birth, although the biological mechanism behind this relationship is still poorly understood. Sea level rise adds salt to drinking water, which can lead to high blood pressure – a risk factor during pregnancy for premature birth and miscarriage. And for those who have access to fertility treatment, which involves highly time-sensitive procedures, increasingly massive and intense storms make assisted conception unpredictable.

After years of failing to study the climate-related health conditions affecting women and gender minorities who can become pregnant, the medical establishment is only beginning to understand the magnitude of these threats. At a moment when reproductive autonomy is under political attack, climate change makes having a womb even more dangerous.

Here you will find a package of stories that will help you understand some of the profound effects that warming has on people who can get pregnant. The full range of climate-related reproductive threats is vast, and this range does not affect them all. Instead, it offers a series of photographs—four windows into the lives of women who face unexpected risks as they try to conceive, conceive, and bear children in a warmer world. Their stories are a warning to us all. —Zoya Teirstein


AUTHORS | Zoya Teirstein, Virginia Gewin, Jessica Kutz, Mahadi Al Hasnat

STORY EDITORS | LV Anderson, Paige Vega, Kara Platoni




DATA VISUALIZATION | Clayton Aldern, Jasmine Mithani

COPY EDITS | Claire Thompson, Joseph Winters, Kate Yoder

FACT CHECKER | Sarah Schweppe, Melissa Hirsch, Caity PenzeyMoog

PARTNERSHIP MANAGERS | Rachel Glickhouse, Abby Johnston, Megan Kearney

AUDIENCE + ENGAGEMENT | Myrka Moreno, Justin Ray, Shira Tarlo

DESIGN + DEVELOPMENT | Mia Torres, Jason Castro, Mignon Khargie

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