Want to give birth to a healthier, smarter baby? Better move to the country. A new study from researchers in Spain has found that pregnant women living in areas with more green space gave birth to bigger babies with bigger heads.
The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, was the first of its kind to look at how a pregnant woman's proximity to green space - namely plants and trees - could affect the outcome of her pregnancy.
Researchers evaluated 2,393 pregnant women from the Iberian Peninsula of Spain who gave birth between 2003 and 2008. Satellite images were used to determine the level of green space that surrounded each woman's home. The study found that babies born to moms living in areas with more plant cover were 1.5 ounces heavier and had head circumferences 0.05 to 0.07 inches larger than babies whose mothers lived in less vegetated areas.
The results took into account other factors that could affect a baby's size such as maternal age, ethnicity, and education level. But why did the green space increase the babies' size? Exposure to nature has been shown to improve health by reducing stress and depression and decreasing a person's exposure to pollution. People who live near green space also tend to be more physically active than those who don't. So it could be that the mothers were just that much healthier than their peers and the benefits were felt by their babies.
It would be interesting to see another study that looked at these factors to get a better idea of just what it is about a pregnant woman's proximity to green space that may make her baby bigger and possibly even smarter.