Exposure to household chemicals may reduce pregnancy chances: Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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Exposure to household chemicals may reduce pregnancy chances
Rep. Image | Courtesy: Marncom @ Pixabay

According to research by a University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental and reproductive epidemiologist, exposure to phthalates was associated with a lower likelihood of getting pregnant but not pregnancy loss.

phthalates are a collection of plasticizing and solvent chemicals found in many home items. They are often called plasticizers. Some phthalates are used to help dissolve other materials. Phthalates are in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays).

The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also noted an association between preconception exposure to phthalates and changes in women’s reproductive hormones, as well as increased inflammation and oxidative stress.

“Phthalates are ubiquitous endocrine disruptors and we’re exposed to them every day,” says lead author Ms. Carrie Nobles, assistant professor of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

The research team analyzed data from a “unique cohort” of women in the preconception time-to-pregnancy study known as EAGeR (Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction), which evaluated the effect of low-dose aspirin on live birth rates. The study includes detailed information on 1,228 participants during six menstrual cycles when they were attempting to get pregnant. The women who became pregnant were followed through pregnancy.

“We were able to look at some environmental exposures like phthalates and how that relates to how long it takes to get pregnant. There was detailed data for each menstrual cycle, so we had a good handle on the date of ovulation and the timing of pregnancy when that happened,” Ms. Nobles said.

In addition, women who showed higher levels of phthalates had lower estradiol and higher follicle-stimulating hormone across the menstrual cycle, which play an important role in ovulation and the early establishment of pregnancy.

“We found there were three parent compounds that seem to be most strongly associated with taking longer to get pregnant, although we saw a general trend toward it taking longer to get pregnant across the phthalates we looked at. As exposure got higher, we saw more and more of an effect,” Ms. Noble noted.

While women can check consumer product labels and look for phthalate-free options, the ubiquitous nature of the chemicals makes it difficult for an individual to control their exposure, as per the statement.

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