BACKGROUND: During the summer of 2019/2020, Australia experienced a catastrophic wildfire season that affected nearly 80% of Australians either directly or indirectly. The impacts of climate crisis on perinatal health have only recently begun to receive attention. The objective of this study was to understand experiences of perinatal women during the bushfire and smoke events of 2019-2020 regarding health, health care, and public health messaging.
METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted by phone or web conferencing platforms with 43 participants living in the south-east of Australia who were either pregnant or who had recently had a baby during the 2019/2020 fires.
RESULTS: The health impacts on participants of the fires, associated smoke, and evacuations for some, were both physical and psychological. Many participants sought information regarding how to protect their own health and that of their unborn/recently born children, but reported this difficult to find.
CONCLUSIONS: Pregnant women and new mothers exposed to bushfire events are a risk group for adverse physical and psychological outcomes. At the time of the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires, exposed women could not easily access evidence-based information to mitigate this risk. Family practitioners are well placed to provide pregnant women and new mothers with this sought-after information, but they need to be prepared well in advance of future similar events.