Effects of bushfire exposure on birth outcomes: A life history theory perspective
Previous research suggests that birth outcomes, such as gestational age, birth weight and secondary sex ratio (the ratio of boys to girls in a population at birth), alter in response to maternal stress. This study considers the role of environmental disasters in maternal stress and altered birth outcomes. A pilot study conducted in 2012 suggests that exposure to bushfires may influence birth weight and gestational age in exposed mother-child populations. Other research on storms and earthquakes support these findings and also find that secondary sex ratio can decline after environmental disasters, resulting in fewer male babies. This study considers in more detail the relationship between two Australian bushfires (the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria and the 2003 Canberra bushfires in the ACT) and the sex, birth weight and gestational age of babies born to mothers who live in bushfire-affected areas (compared to those babies born to mothers who lived elsewhere). The planned study of birth outcomes uses a cohort method. It is intended that this will be supported by interviews and surveys which focus on the experience of pregnant women during bushfires and analysis of data from the Australian Government’s Longitudinal Study on Australian Children.
- O’Donnell, M.H. & Behie, A.M. (under review) Effects of bushfire disaster exposure on male birth weight in an Australian population. Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.
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- O’Donnell, M.H. & Behie, A.M. (2014) Adapting to disaster? A commentary on Hamamatsu et al. (2014). Journal of Biosocial Science, 47(3), 413-416 doi:10.1017/S0021932014000285
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- Bushfire Babies: Effects of bushfire exposure on births. Podium presentation. Australasian Society for Human Biology 28th Annual Conference, December 2014
- Fire Babies: Bushfire stress during pregnancy. Podium presentation. Three Minute Thesis College Final. The Australian National University, September 2014
- Bushfires and Births: The impacts of the Victorian (Australian) Black Saturday bushfires on human reproductive outcomes. Poster presentation. Australasian Society for Human Biology 26th Annual Conference, December 2012
- Clinical Practice Improvement Project. Podium presentation. Alzheimer’s Australia Conference: A journey of passion and purpose, 2007