Opinion Paper

Awareness and interventions to reduce dehydration in pregnant, postpartum women, and newborns in rural Kenya

Adelaide Lusambili, Britt Nakstad
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a3991 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.3991 | © 2023 Adelaide Lusambili, Britt Nakstad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 January 2023 | Published: 15 May 2023

About the author(s)

Adelaide Lusambili, Institute for Human Development, Faculty of Public Health, The Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya; and Environmental Center, Leadership and Governance HUB, School of Business, African International University, Nairobi, Kenya
Britt Nakstad, Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana; and Division of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway


Extreme heat exposure is associated with adverse outcomes in pregnancy and has the potential to impact maternal, neonatal and child health for a lifetime. In an extremely hot climate, pregnant women face an increased risk of premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, congenital anomalies and pre-eclampsia. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), socio-demographic and behavioural practices may negatively affect body hydration during high temperatures. The possible causes and consequences of dehydration in the heat are poorly understood and have been little discussed in the literature.

Living in a hot climate poses various challenges, including dehydration, where biological mechanisms and insufficient access to water can lead to dehydration in women and children, with consequences for the health of both mothers and children, particularly in relation to breastfeeding habits. During pregnancy, increased metabolic and cardiovascular demands interact with heat exhaustion and reduced availability of fresh water, which can affect the child’s growth and development. In this opinion piece, we emphasise the possible causes and impacts of dehydration in extreme heat on the health and well-being of mothers and children. We encourage more research, focused on biology and epidemiology, related to raising awareness and implementing adaptations to reduce the risk of dehydration in pregnant, postpartum women and newborns in the context of climate change-related heat exposure.


dehydration; newborns; pregnant and dehydration; newborns; pregnant and postpartum women; climate change; heat; drought.


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Crossref Citations

1. The Climate Crisis and Breastfeeding: Opportunities for Resilience
Elizabeth Cerceo, Karen Saxer, Lauren Grossman, Kathleen Shapley-Quinn, Lori Feldman-Winter
Journal of Human Lactation  vol: 40  issue: 1  first page: 33  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1177/08903344231216726