Phthalate exposure during pregnancy and long-term weight gain in women

Environ Res. 2019 Feb;169:26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.10.014. Epub 2018 Oct 19.


Background: Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) activators, potentially capable of promoting an obesogenic effect. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to phthalate exposure due to physiological and metabolic changes during pregnancy, including those related to the metabolism of xenobiotics. Phthalate exposure during pregnancy has been associated with early gestational weight gain, however, its effect on long-term weight gain remains unclear. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association between phthalate exposure during pregnancy and long-term changes in weight among women.

Methods: Urinary phthalate concentrations, socioeconomic, anthropometry and information on diet and socioeconomic status were collected during pregnancy from 178 women from the Early Life Exposure in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) birth cohort. Maternal body weight and diet information was also collected up to 5 times in the first year postpartum and twice during follow-up visits 5.2-10.7 years later. A path analysis was performed to assess associations between urinary phthalate metabolite levels during pregnancy and change in weight (kg) per year after delivery, including age, education, living with/without partner, parity, daily energy intake and breastfeeding duration.

Results: The mean age at pregnancy was 27.3 ± 5.9 years and mean body mass index during the first postpartum year was 27.07 ± 4.22 kg/m2. On average, women gained 3.48 kg (0.52 ± 0.84 kg/year). A unit increase in log-transformed mono-3-carboxypropyl phthalate (MCPP) was associated with 0.33 kg (95% CI: 0.09, 0.56) higher weight gain per year, and mono-benzyl phthalate (MBzP) with 0.21 kg (95% CI: -0.38, -0.03) lower weight gain per year.

Conclusion: Exposure to certain phthalates during pregnancy may be associated with long-term weight change in women. More studies on the effects of phthalate exposure during pregnancy on women's long-term health are required.

Keywords: MBZP; MCPP; Phthalates; Pregnancy; Weight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mexico
  • Phthalic Acids*
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight Gain*
  • Women*
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phthalic Acids