Reproductive Health in a Time of Climate Change

representation of human impact on climate with nature-infused silhouette

We live in a time of multiple crises, and climate change is one of them. It is influencing all aspects of our life and health, and sexual and reproductive health is not immune to it. For example, the rise in global temperatures and extreme weather events, like floods, droughts, and heatwaves – the outcome of climate change, risks increasing gender inequalities and threatens the health and rights of girls, women, and other vulnerable populations. Hence, it is vital that we understand climate change and reproductive health as an interlinked challenge that needs to be addressed holistically.

In this blog, we will explore how climate change is affecting sexual and reproductive health and what the way forward should be.

What Is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in global and regional climate patterns, primarily attributed to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes. These activities have increased the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and resulted in rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events, with other environmental impacts.

As a result, the glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and we have more heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, storms, and wildfires. Our ecosystems have also been disrupted, causing loss of biodiversity and shifts in agricultural productivity.

These changes have a significant impact on human lives as they increase health risks, threaten food security, exacerbate water scarcity, lead to conflicts over resources, cause economic losses through damage to infrastructure and livelihoods, and displace populations. As with most issues, these challenges disproportionately affect vulnerable populations (e.g., women) and regions (low-income countries).

How Does Climate Change Affect Sexual and Reproductive Health?

Climate change severely impacts sexual and reproductive health, affecting both individuals and communities. Some of these challenges are:

heat-related illnesses. Rising temperatures associated with climate change lead to an increase in heat-related illnesses such as dehydration and heatstroke, which negatively impact reproductive health. Pregnant individuals are particularly vulnerable to heat stress, which increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and other adverse pregnancy outcomes.

changes in infectious disease patterns. Climate change has altered the distribution and prevalence of infectious diseases, such as mosquito-borne illnesses like the Zika virus and malaria. These diseases have serious implications for reproductive health, including birth defects, miscarriage, and maternal mortality.

food and water insecurity. Climate change disrupts food and water supplies, leading to malnutrition and food insecurity. Poor nutrition affects reproductive health by increasing the risk of infertility, pregnancy complications, and adverse birth outcomes. Additionally, water scarcity impacts hygiene and sanitation, increasing the risk of infections during pregnancy and childbirth.

natural disasters. Climate-related natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, have immediate and long-term effects on reproductive health. Displacement, injury, and trauma resulting from these events disrupt access to reproductive health-care services, such as contraception, prenatal care, and safe abortion services, which increases the risk of unintended pregnancies and maternal health problems.

air pollution. Climate change worsens air quality, leading to increased exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter and ozone. Exposure to air pollution negatively affects fertility and leads to adverse outcomes for pregnant people, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and congenital anomalies.

migration and displacement. Climate change contributes to environmental degradation and resource scarcity, leading to forced migration and displacement. Displaced populations, including refugees and internally displaced people, often face barriers to accessing reproductive health-care services, increasing the risk of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal mortality.

How to Protect Our Planet and Our Health

Given the impact of climate change on our sexual and reproductive health, it is important that all our actions – preventing further global warming, adapting to climate change, and improving life circumstances – are supportive of each other and do not produce negative health effects. One key strategy in this regard is to enhance collaboration between advocacy communities working on climate change, health, and women’s rights. By joining forces, these groups can leverage their expertise and resources to develop more effective and holistic solutions. Together, they can advocate for policies that not only mitigate climate change but also address the health disparities exacerbated by it.

Equally important is to invest in research initiatives that expand our understanding of the connection between climate change and sexual and reproductive health and develop solutions that integrate the two.

At the same time, we must ensure that people have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, especially in the face of climate-related disasters. This means ensuring that people have the information, services, and support they need to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, such as access to contraception, maternal health care, and emergency services.

One important way to achieve this is by strengthening traditional health-care systems. By investing in infrastructure, resources, and capacity-building initiatives, we build more resilient health systems that effectively respond to the health impacts of climate change. This not only improves health outcomes but also enhances overall community resilience in the face of environmental challenges.

In addition to traditional health-care systems, e-health solutions can significantly enhance access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. E-health encompasses the use of digital technologies, such as mobile apps, telemedicine, and online platforms, to deliver health-care services remotely. Such initiatives provide crucial information, support, and services to individuals, even in remote or disaster-affected areas where traditional health-care infrastructure is compromised.

At safe2choose, we do just that – provide health-care support via digital tools. We advocate for reproductive health and accessibility of safe abortion services to everyone who needs it; we operate an online counseling and informational hub; and we direct people seeking an abortion with pills or through surgical procedures to reputable health-care providers. If you are looking for more information related to this topic, you can get in touch with us at or start a live chat on our website: