Approximately 6 million pregnancies occur each year in the United States. While most women have a normal term pregnancy and deliver a normal infant, a safe and healthy pregnancy is not the experience of all women. In 2002, about 1.2 million women said they had seen a doctor about infertility within the previous year.
We already know the effects of some exposures. For example, smoking during pregnancy slows a baby’s growth while it is in the womb. Other risks include substance abuse, poor nutrition, lack of prenatal care, medical problems, and chronic illness. There is also mounting evidence in the scientific literature that exposure to chemicals in the environment could damage critical organ systems as they are developing during pregnancy and affect reproductive health.
EPHT intends to enhance existing vital statistics surveillance data by creating reproductive and birth outcomes indicators that are more relevant for linking to environmental exposure and by gathering hazard data not currently being routinely collected by health surveillance systems. The Oregon EPHT program is tracking several reproductive and birth outcomes, including fertility, sex ratio, prematurity, growth retardation and infant mortality.
The goal of reproductive and birth outcomes tracking is to identify high risk populations, assist health providers in targeting medical care resources (e.g., prenatal care), examine changes in temporal and spatial patterns of reproductive outcomes that may provide clues on contributing factors and etiology, and inform public health prevention actions and interventions.