Prenatal phthalate exposure and placental size and shape at birth: A birth cohort study

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Abstract

Objective

There is concern over the potential placental effects of prenatal phthalate exposure, and the potential adverse effects of prenatal phthalate exposure require further study; however, few data are available in humans. We investigated the associations between phthalate exposure in each trimester and both placental size and shape at birth.

Methods

We measured the urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites among 2725 pregnant women in the Ma’anshan Birth Cohort. Before collecting urine samples from each of the three trimesters, the pregnant women were interviewed via questionnaires. Placental information was obtained from hospital records. We estimated the sex-specific associations between urinary phthalate concentrations in each trimester and both placental size and shape at birth using adjusted multiple regression. A linear mixed model was used for the repeated measures analysis with subject-specific random intercepts and slopes for gestational age at sample collection to test the effect of phthalate levels on placental size and shape and to estimate the effect sizes.

Results

Overall, placental breadth increased by 0.148 cm (95% CI: 0.078, 0.218) with each 1 ln-concentration increase in MBP in the first trimester. The difference between placental length and breadth (length–breadth) decreased by 0.086 cm (95% CI: −0.159, −0.012) and 0.149 cm (95% CI: −0.221, −0.076) with each 1 ln-concentration increase in MMP and MBP, respectively, in the first trimester. In the second trimester, placental thickness increased by 0.017 cm (95% CI: 0.006, 0.027), 0.020 cm (95% CI: 0.004, 0.036), 0.028 cm (95% CI: 0.007, 0.048), and 0.035 cm (95% CI: 0.018, 0.053) with each 1 ln-concentration increase in MMP, MBP, MEOHP, and MEHHP, respectively. In the third trimester, placental thickness increased by 0.037 cm (95% CI: 0.019, 0.056) and 0.019 cm (95% CI: 0, 0.037) with each 1 ln-concentration increase in MBP and MEHP, respectively. Multiple linear regression for each offspring sex indicated that prenatal phthalate exposure increased placental thickness in both the first and second trimesters in males, whereas the corresponding relationship was close to null in females. Linear mixed models (LMMs) yielded similar results.

Conclusion

Our results suggest the presence of associations between prenatal phthalate exposure and placental size and shape. Exposure to certain phthalates may cause the placenta to become thicker and more circular. Associations appeared stronger for the subsample representing male offspring than those for the subsample representing female offspring. Given the few studies on this topic, additional research is warranted.

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