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Environmental Health Perspectives



Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Despite the sensitivity of female reproductive processes to oxidation–reduction reaction stress and endocrine disruption, evidence for the impact of women’s phthalate exposure on the ability to establish and maintain pregnancy has been inconclusive.


We aimed to determine the relationship of preconception phthalate metabolite exposure with a) fecundability and pregnancy loss and b) markers of potential biological mechanisms, including reproductive hormones, inflammation, and oxidative stress.


Data were collected from the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) trial, a preconception study following 1,228 women who were attempting pregnancy, for up to six menstrual cycles and throughout pregnancy if they became pregnant. Twenty phthalate metabolites were measured in a consecutive 3-d pooled urine sample at enrollment. Pregnancy was determined through urinary human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) at the expected date of menses during each cycle and pregnancy loss as an observed loss following positive hCG. Highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and isoprostanes were measured at enrollment, and reproductive hormones were measured during the follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase. Discrete-time Cox proportional hazards models evaluated the relationship of phthalate metabolites with fecundability and weighted Poisson models with robust variance evaluated the risk of pregnancy loss.


An interquartile range (IQR) higher mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate [fecundability odds ratio (FOR)=0.88; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.78, 1.00], mono-butyl phthalate (FOR=0.82; 95% CI: 0.70, 0.96), and mono-benzyl phthalate (FOR=0.85; 95% CI: 0.74, 0.98) was associated with lower fecundability. No consistent associations were observed with pregnancy loss. Preconception phthalates were consistently associated with higher hsCRP and isoprostanes, as well as lower estradiol and higher follicle-stimulating hormone across the menstrual cycle.







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