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Common plastics chemical BPA linked to preterm birth

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston


IMAGE: Lead author Ramkumar Menon. view more

Credit: The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Higher concentrations of the common plastics chemical and environmental pollutant Bisphenol A, or BPA, in a pregnant mother's blood may be a contributing factor in preterm births, according to a new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The new study, led by Ramkumar Menon, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB, in collaboration with Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, found that pregnant women with higher levels of BPA in their blood were more likely to deliver their babies early compared with women with lower levels of BPA.

The investigators analyzed blood samples from pregnant women when they were admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery and from the amniotic fluid of the fetus collected during labor. These samples were obtained by the Nashville Birth Cohort Biobank. The study was recently published in The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine.

"Women are continuously exposed to BPA because it's used in the construction and coatings of food containers and its release into food is increased by microwave or other heat sources," Menon said. "In fact, BPA is so widely used that nearly all women have some level of exposure."

BPA is structurally similar to the female hormone estrogen and binds to estrogen receptors within the body, including those responsible for inflammation. Abnormal inflammation increases the risk of a number of pregnancy complications including water breaking early and preterm birth. This is the first study to investigate the role of BPA blood levels on risk of preterm birth.

"Widespread use of BPA in materials of our daily life and our findings that all patients have some level of exposure suggests that contact with these materials is unavoidable," Menon said. "This suggests that a better understanding of how BPA may alter maternal physiology is needed to minimize the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes."

The team is currently conducting studies using cells from pregnant women's uteruses and fetal membranes to document these molecular pathways and identify potential targets for intervention.


Other authors of this paper include UTMB's Faranak Behnia, Cheryl Watson and George Saade as well as Morgan Peltier from Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Darios Getahun from Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the UTMB department of obstetrics and gynecology.

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