Maternal serum perfluoroalkyl substances during pregnancy and duration of breastfeeding

Environ Res. 2016 Aug;149:239-246. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.04.034. Epub 2016 May 11.


Background: Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may affect breast development and decrease duration of breastfeeding, thus interfering with the health benefits of breastfeeding. We investigated the association between maternal PFAS exposure and breastfeeding duration.

Methods: We measured PFAS concentrations in maternal serum collected during pregnancy in 2003-2006. After delivery, women (n=336) completed standardized breastfeeding surveys every 3 months until ending breastfeeding or 36 months postpartum. We estimated relative risks (RRs) for ending any breastfeeding within 3-6 months postpartum by Poisson regression, adjusted for relevant confounding factors.

Results: Women in the 4th quartile of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) serum concentration had 1.77 times the risk of ending any breastfeeding by 3 months (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.23, 2.54; p-trend=0.003) and 1.41 times the risk of ending any breastfeeding by 6 months (95%CI: 1.06, 1.87; p-trend=0.038), compared with women in the first quartile. Women in the 4th quartile of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid serum concentration had a marginally increased risk of discontinuing any breastfeeding by 3 months (RR=1.32; 95%CI: 0.97, 1.79; p-trend=0.065).

Conclusions: Maternal serum PFOA concentrations were inversely related to duration of any breastfeeding in this cohort, even after controlling for prior breastfeeding. These findings suggest that PFOA exposure may adversely affect breastfeeding duration and highlight the need to consider the potential adverse effects of maternal environmental chemical exposure on breastfeeding.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Perfluoroalkyl substances; Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid; Perfluorooctanoic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Ohio
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons