In a recent study published in the medical journal ‘JAMA Pediatrics’, the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found a link between premature birth and common chemicals known as phthalates. Phthalates can commonly be found in lotions, perfumes, deodorants, and contaminated food or water. The study has revealed that pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of phthalates, are more likely to prematurely give birth. On top of causing premature birth, phthalates can disrupt thyroid hormone levels, cause breast cancer and a uterine disorder called endometriosis. Over the last 20 years, the rates of preterm births have been on the rise, and due to growing concern more and more environmental factors are being studied for their effects on pregnancy.
For the actual study, the university scientists compared 130 women who had their child prematurely. ‘Premature’ in this case is referred to as birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The premature women were compared to 352 women who had normal delivery times. Urine samples were taken three times during pregnancy, and the 130 women who delivered early had significantly higher levels of phthalate-like compounds in their urine. The results are pointing in the right direction, but scientists and doctors aren’t completely convinced that phthalates are the main cause of the early deliveries, but they are suspected to be a contributor in the big picture.
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