Climate change is making it harder for couples to conceive
According to research by UCLA environmental economist Alan Barreca, hot weather reduces chances of getting pregnant — and the problem is expected to get worse because of global warming.
After noticing that August and September — nine months after the coldest part of the year — are two of the busiest months for births in the U.S., Barreca, a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, pored through 80 years of U.S. birth data, looking for trends.
Reported in the journal Demography, the study found that high temperatures have a significant negative effect on fertility and birth rates, and the research projects that as climate change drives temperatures up and increases the number and severity of heat waves, getting pregnant may become harder than ever.
“If you look nine months after a heat wave in August, the following May you see significantly fewer births,” Barreca said.
It’s not that people have less sex in hot weather. (In fact, unpublished research by Barreca indicates people actually have more sex when temperatures rise.) Rather, the pattern is likely due to heat’s effect on male fertility: Studies show that sperm production falls in hot weather, he said.
The reduction in fertility occurred across all regions of the U.S., with hot states like Arizona seeing the same trends as cooler ones. Barreca said this may be because those who live in warmer climates are are better adapted to the heat or avoid it by staying inside air conditioned buildings. In fact, the effect was slightly more pronounced in northern states, where people are less prepared for heat waves.
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