sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities

Does Weather Matter for Foetal Growth in Uganda?

Congratulations to Sarah MacVicar for her new publication!  Sarah’s paper examines associations between in utero meteorological exposures and foetal growth among Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers in rural Uganda.

If you ever wondered how weather conditions impact foetal growth, check out this paper!  Click here to view the open-access paper. 

Paper citation:

MacVicar, S., Berrang-Ford, L., Harper, S.L., Huang, Y., Namanya, B.D. and Yang, S., 2017. Whether weather matters: Evidence of association between in utero meteorological exposures and foetal growth among Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers in rural Uganda. PloS one, 12(6), p.e0179010.


Pregnancy and birth outcomes have been found to be sensitive to meteorological variation, yet few studies explore this relationship in sub-Saharan Africa where infant mortality rates are the highest in the world. We address this research gap by examining the association between meteorological factors and birth weight in a rural population in southwestern Uganda. Our study included hospital birth records (n = 3197) from 2012 to 2015, for which we extracted meteorological exposure data for the three trimesters preceding each birth. We used linear regression, controlling for key covariates, to estimate the timing, strength, and direction of meteorological effects on birth weight. Our results indicated that precipitation during the third trimester had a positive association with birth weight, with more frequent days of precipitation associated with higher birth weight: we observed a 3.1g (95% CI: 1.0–5.3g) increase in birth weight per additional day of exposure to rainfall over 5mm. Increases in average daily temperature during the third trimester were also associated with birth weight, with an increase of 41.8g (95% CI: 0.6–82.9g) per additional degree Celsius. When the sample was stratified by season of birth, only infants born between June and November experienced a significant associated between meteorological exposures and birth weight. The association of meteorological variation with foetal growth seemed to differ by ethnicity; effect sizes of meteorological were greater among an Indigenous subset of the population, in particular for variation in temperature. Effects in all populations in this study are higher than estimates of the African continental average, highlighting the heterogeneity in the vulnerability of infant health to meteorological variation in different contexts. Our results indicate that while there is an association between meteorological variation and birth weight, the magnitude of these associations may vary across ethnic groups with differential socioeconomic resources, with implications for interventions to reduce these gradients and offset the health impacts predicted under climate change.

Photos of Sarah’s Research:


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