Houston | Moms-to-be, take note! Exposure to a common chemical found in plastic coatings and food containers may increase the risk of preterm birth, a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher has warned.
Higher concentrations of the common plastic chemical and environmental pollutant Bisphenol A, or BPA, in a pregnant mother’s blood may be a contributing factor in preterm births, researchers said. The study, led by Ramkumar Menon, assistant professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, US, 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.
Researchers, including those from Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, analysed blood samples from pregnant women when they were admitted to the hospital for labour and delivery and from the amniotic fluid of the foetus collected during labour.
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, he said. BPA is structurally similar to the female hormone oestrogen and binds to oestrogen 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 minimise the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, he said.
The team is currently conducting studies using cells from pregnant women’s uteruses and foetal membranes to document these molecular pathways and identify potential targets for intervention.
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