The sex-specific association between maternal paraben exposure and size at birth

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2019 Jul;222(6):955-964. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.06.004. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


Parabens are a group of esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid and are utilized as antimicrobial preservatives in the majority of personal care products (PCPs). Epidemiological studies regarding the adverse effects of parabens on fetuses are still limited. The aim of this study was to determine the association between maternal paraben exposure and birth outcomes. One hundred and ninety-nine pregnant women were enrolled, and maternal urine was collected in the third trimester. The urine concentrations of four parabens (methyl (MP), ethyl (EP), propyl (PP), and butyl (BP)) were determined by ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Generalized additive model-penalized regression splines and a multivariable regression model were employed to determine the association between paraben exposure levels and birth outcomes. A causal mediation analysis was conducted to determine the mediation effect of oxidative stress on birth outcomes. The geometric means of urinary MP, EP, PP, and BP were 51.79, 1.26, 4.21, and 1.25 μg/g cre., respectively. In the penalized regression splines, sex-specific associations between maternal MP levels and birth outcomes were observed; a downward curvature was observed between the MP level and birth weight, length, head circumference, and thoracic circumference among female newborns. Pregnant women in the group with MP levels above the third quartile had neonates with significantly lower body weight (β = -215.98 g, p value = 0.02) compared to those in the group with MP levels lower than the third quartile. No significant mediation of oxidative stress was observed between maternal MP exposure and female birth weight. The estimated proportion mediated ranged from -6% to 15%. The negative association between maternal paraben exposure and female birth outcomes in relation to child development should be carefully considered.

Keywords: Birth outcomes; Oxidative stress; Paraben; Pregnant women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents / urine*
  • Biological Monitoring
  • Body Size*
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Parabens / analysis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Taiwan


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Parabens