Gestational Weight Gain and Exposure of Newborns to Persistent Organic Pollutants

Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Aug;122(8):873-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1306758. Epub 2014 May 2.


Background: Exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) during fetal development can increase the risk of adverse health effects during childhood. Maternal characteristics and physiological changes during gestation, such as gestational weight gain (GWG), may have an influence in the overall burden of POPs in neonates. However, the associations between GWG and POP concentrations are still not well established.

Objective: We examined the association of GWG with cord serum POPs concentrations after adjusting for prepregnancy maternal body mass index (BMI) and other potential determinants of the transfer of POPs into newborns. The GWG values were evaluated after grouping by the reference guidelines of the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Methods: We measured levels of 14 organochlorine pesticides, 7 polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), and 14 polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in 325 cord serum samples from a Spanish birth cohort. Multivariable models were used to estimate associations of GWG, prepregnancy BMI, and other maternal determinants on cord serum concentrations of POPs.

Results: Neonatal concentrations of POPs were inversely associated with GWG after adjustment for age, prepregnancy BMI, educational level, and fish consumption. On average, neonates of women with IOM-recommended GWG have lower POP concentrations than do neonates of mothers with inadequate GWG.

Conclusions: The present findings suggest an association between neonatal exposure to POPs and inadequate GWG during pregnancy. Encouraging pregnant women to meet the recommended IOM guidelines for GWG may reduce the accumulation of POPs in newborns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls