Objective: We conducted a systematic review of the published literature to test the hypothesis that maternal exposure to extremes of ambient temperatures during pregnancy is associated with the risk for psychiatric disorders or congenital malformations in offspring, both of which are indicative of perturbations of fetal neurodevelopment. Method: This study was conducted in accordance with the recommendations outlined in the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) reporting proposal. Electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid Embase, Ovid PsycINFO, Ovid Global Health, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library) were searched. Four independent reviewers selected studies with the following criteria: (1) prenatal maternal ambient temperature exposure; (2) outcome of offspring psychiatric disorder or congenital defects; (3) empirical study; (4) full-length article, no conference presentations or abstracts. Results: Twenty-two studies met criteria and one was added from a reference list (n = 23). Of these, schizophrenia (n = 5), anorexia nervosa (n = 3) and congenital cardiovascular malformations (n = 6) studies were the most common. Each of these categories showed some evidence of association with an early pregnancy maternal ambient heat exposure effect, with other evidence for a late pregnancy cold effect. Conclusion: Some evidence supports a role for early pregnancy maternal exposure to extreme ambient heat in the development of psychiatric disorders, but large-scale, prospective cohort data on individual births is essential. Optimal studies will be conducted in seasonally variable climates, accounting for actual maternal residence over the pregnancy and at parturition, local environmental temperature records, and appropriate covariates, similar to studies identified by this systematic review for congenital malformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Ambient temperature
  • Climate change
  • Congenital malformations
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seasonality of birth


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