Maternal occupational exposures and fetal growth in a Spanish birth cohort

PLoS One. 2022 Apr 7;17(4):e0264530. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264530. eCollection 2022.


While the epidemiologic literature suggests certain maternal occupational exposures may be associated with reduced measures of size at birth, the occupational literature employing fetal biometry data to assess fetal growth is sparse. The present study examines associations between maternal occupational exposures and ultrasound-measured fetal growth. We included 1,739 singleton pregnancies from the INfancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) project (2003-2008). At 32 weeks of pregnancy, interviewers ascertained mothers' employment status and assessed job-related physical loads, work schedules, and job strain during pregnancy. Job titles were linked to a job-exposure matrix to estimate exposure to 10 endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) groups. We calculated z-scores from longitudinal growth curves representing trajectories from 0-12, 12-20 and 20-34 gestational weeks for abdominal circumference (AC), biparietal diameter (BPD), femur length (FL), and estimated fetal weight (EFW). Linear mixed models clustered by IMNA region (i.e., Gipuzkoa, Sabadell, Valencia) were used to examine associations between occupational exposures and fetal growth. Effect estimates are presented as percentage change in fetal growth. There was limited evidence of associations between work-related non-chemical stressors and fetal growth. We observed associations of similar magnitude between multiple EDC groups and decreased EFW trajectories during 20-34 gestational weeks (phthalates: -1.4% [-3.5, 0.6%]; alkylphenolic compounds (APCs): -1.1% [-2.3, 0.1%]; miscellaneous chemicals: -1.5% [-3.7, 0.8%]), while miscellaneous chemicals were associated with increased BPD from 12-20 weeks (2.1% [0.8, 3.5%]). Notably, 67% of women exposed to phthalates were hairdressers; 68% of women exposed to APCs worked as domestic cleaners. In conclusion, we found limited evidence that maternal occupational exposures impact fetal growth. Further research should consider the combined impact of multiple workplace exposures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Birth Cohort
  • Birth Weight
  • Endocrine Disruptors* / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal


  • Endocrine Disruptors