Soy-based Infant Formula Feeding and Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Among Young African American Women

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Phytoestrogen exposure from soy formula feeding during infancy may disrupt reproductive system development, resulting in altered menstrual bleeding in adulthood.


We investigated this relationship in a cohort of 1,696 young African American women using enrollment data from the Study of Environment, Lifestyle, & Fibroids (2010–2012). Questionnaire data on soy formula feeding were available for 1,553 participants, 89% based on mother’s report. Menstrual bleeding outcomes including those indicative of heavy menstrual bleeding were ascertained by interview. We estimated relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for associations between soy formula feeding and menstrual bleeding outcomes using log-binomial regression and log-multinomial regression, comparing participants ever fed and never fed soy formula.


We observed associations between soy formula feeding and variables indicating a history of heavy menstrual bleeding, including ever experiencing heavy, gushing-type bleeding (RR: 1.2, 95% CI: 1.0, 1.4), ever use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for heavy bleeding (RR: 1.3, 95% CI: 1.0, 1.6), and ever use of a contraceptive method for heavy bleeding (RR: 1.2, 95% CI, 0.9, 1.6). Among the subset of participants with menses in the past year who did not use medication that may alter menstrual flow (n = 762), our data suggested that soy formula feeding was associated with heavier flow and the adverse impact of menstrual bleeding on quality of life, but CIs were wide.


Our data suggested that soy formula feeding is associated with heavy menstrual bleeding. Our results support the idea that infancy is a susceptible developmental window for female reproductive function.

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