“Mothers get really exhausted!” The lived experience of pregnancy in extreme heat: Qualitative findings from Kilifi, Kenya

F. Scorgie, A. Lusambili, S. Luchters, P. Khaemba, V. Filippi, B. Nakstad, J. Hess, C. Birch, S. Kovats, M. F. Chersich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Heat exposure in pregnancy is associated with a range of adverse health and wellbeing outcomes, yet research on the lived experience of pregnancy in high temperatures is lacking. We conducted qualitative research in 2021 in two communities in rural Kilifi County, Kenya, a tropical savannah area currently experiencing severe drought. Pregnant and postpartum women, their male spouses and mothers-in-law, community health volunteers, and local health and environment stakeholders were interviewed or participated in focus group discussions. Pregnant women described symptoms that are classically regarded as heat exhaustion, including dizziness, fatigue, dehydration, insomnia, and irritability. They interpreted heat-related tachycardia as signalling hypertension and reported observing more miscarriages and preterm births in the heat. Pregnancy is conceptualised locally as a ‘normal’ state of being, and women continue to perform physically demanding household chores in the heat, even when pregnant. Women reported little support from family members to reduce their workload at this time, reflecting their relative lack of autonomy within the household, but also potentially the ‘normalisation’ of heat in these communities. Climate change risk reduction strategies for pregnant women in low-resource settings need to be cognisant of local household gender dynamics that constrain women's capacity to avoid heat exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116223
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Climate change
  • Gender relations
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Heat exposure
  • Kenya
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative research


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