Perfluorinated compounds and subfecundity in pregnant women

Epidemiology. 2012 Mar;23(2):257-63. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31823b5031.


Background: Perfluorinated compounds are ubiquitous pollutants; epidemiologic data suggest they may be associated with adverse health outcomes, including subfecundity. We examined subfecundity in relation to 2 perfluorinated compounds-perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Methods: This case-control analysis included 910 women enrolled in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study in 2003 and 2004. Around gestational week 17, women reported their time to pregnancy and provided blood samples. Cases consisted of 416 women with a time to pregnancy greater than 12 months, considered subfecund. Plasma concentrations of perfluorinated compounds were analyzed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated for each pollutant quartile using logistic regression. Estimates were further stratified by parity.

Results: The median plasma concentration of PFOS was 13.0 ng/mL (interquartile range [IQR] = 10.3-16.6 ng/mL) and of PFOA was 2.2 ng/mL (IQR = 1.7-3.0 ng/mL). The relative odds of subfecundity among parous women was 2.1 (95% CI = 1.2-3.8) for the highest PFOS quartile and 2.1 (1.0-4.0) for the highest PFOA quartile. Among nulliparous women, the respective relative odds were 0.7 (0.4-1.3) and 0.5 (0.2-1.2).

Conclusion: Previous studies suggest that the body burden of perfluorinated compounds decreases during pregnancy and lactation through transfer to the fetus and to breast milk. Afterward, the body burden may increase again. Among parous women, increased body burden may be due to a long interpregnancy interval rather than the cause of a long time to pregnancy. Therefore, data from nulliparous women may be more informative regarding toxic effects of perfluorinated compounds. Our results among nulliparous women did not support an association with subfecundity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / adverse effects*
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / blood
  • Body Burden
  • Caprylates / adverse effects*
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Fluorocarbons / adverse effects*
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy / drug effects


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid