The Unexpected Factor That Might Affect Babies' Birth Weights

Photographed by Kerstins Kopf.

Having a healthy pregnancy is something most people aim for when they plan to have a baby. They take prenatal vitamins, put together healthy meal plans, and otherwise prepare their bodies as best as possible. But there are still some factors we can't control, and they may be affecting pregnancy more than we think.

A new study has shown that fracking may have an effect on infant health — pregnant women who lived within close distance to fracking sites are more likely to give birth to underweight infants.

The study, published in Science Advances, looked at more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013, and found that women who lived within a half a mile of fracking operations in Pennsylvania were 25% more likely to have infants who were low-weight.

Fracking, or induced hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technique that involves injecting high-pressure water mixed with chemicals into underground rock to release natural gas. It's become one of the biggest environmental issues we face, because of how resource-intensive it is, and how those chemicals can make their way into the water we drink.

It's not clear in the study why births close to fracking sites are affected while those farther away are not, but either way, it's a sign that fracking may have even more dangers than we originally thought. Given how the Flint water crisis may have affected fertility levels in the area, however, it's not a surprise that the environment plays a huge role in pregnancy.

Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.

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