Living in big cities can make it hard to access green spaces, but a new study shows that it’s important to make the effort to be surrounded by plants, trees and grass—especially for expectant mothers.
An evaluation of 40,000 single live births in Tel Aviv, Israel set alongside information about gardens and parks in the city showed that babies with mothers who lived near green spaces had significantly higher birth weights. They are not the first study to notice such a correlation.
Birth weight is an important indicator of a baby’s health, according to UNICEF, and finding ways to reduce low birth weights globally has been one of their primary goals. This new study suggests that providing more funding for developing parks in big cities may be part of the solution.
More research will need to be done to understand why there is a correlation between green spaces and birth weight, but the researchers have some theories. Cleaner air and sound barriers provided by plants could play a role, as could the relaxing effects of greenery. Expectant mothers near parks may also exercise more often as parks offer opportunities for walks. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, one of the authors of the study, told us there might be multiple factors at play.
The study also found babies in economically deprived areas with the least access to green spaces had the lowest birth weights. Socio economic factors can make it hard for mothers to access appropriate food or medical care, which can have an impact on their baby’s health, but Nieuwenhuijsen told us that the study controlled for these factors, saying “We still see an effect of green space, suggesting that both have an independent effect [on birth weight].”
“Questions remain as to what extent, type, quantity and quality of green space are important,” added Nieuwenhuijsen. “The measures of space we have used so far are fairly crude and we are working on refinements.”