Parabens exposure in early pregnancy and gestational diabetes mellitus

Environ Int. 2019 May;126:468-475. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.02.040. Epub 2019 Mar 4.


Background: Widespread exposure to parabens has been a concern, especially among pregnant women. Only one study reported that parabens are associated with glucose levels among pregnant women. However, studies on parabens exposure and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) are lacking.

Objectives: This study investigated whether exposure to parabens in early pregnancy is related to GDM.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study of 1087 pregnant women from a single tertiary medical center between 2014 and 2015 in Wuhan, China. Parabens [methyl paraben (MeP), ethylparaben (EtP), propylparaben (PrP), butylparaben (BuP), and benzylparaben (BzP)] concentrations were measured in spot urine samples collected between 8 and 16 gestational weeks. GDM was diagnosed according to the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups Consensus Panel (IADPSG) recommendations. We used the Poisson regression with a robust error variance with generalized estimating equations (GEE) estimation analyses to evaluate associations between parabens exposure and GDM risk.

Results: A total of 103 (9.5%) women were diagnosed with GDM. We evaluated the associations of GDM risk with urinary MeP, EtP, and PrP (detection rate: >90%), but not with BuP and BzP due to the relatively low detection rate (<50%). After adjustment for potential confounders, urinary EtP was associated with GDM. The risk ratios (RRs) = 1.12 (95% CI: 0.63, 2.01) for the second quartile, RRs = 1.11 (95% CI: 0.64, 1.93) for the third quartile, and RRs = 1.70 (95% CI: 1.02, 2.82) for the highest quartile, compared with the lowest quartile. There was no evidence of associations between urinary MeP or PrP and GDM.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of an association between urinary paraben levels in early pregnancy and GDM. Our findings suggest that exposure to EtP may increase the risk of GDM.

Keywords: Gestational diabetes mellitus; Parabens; Prospective cohort study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China / epidemiology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / urine
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parabens / analysis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Parabens