Pregnancy-related maternal physiological adaptations and fetal chemical exposure

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2023 Dec 1:578:112064. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2023.112064. Epub 2023 Sep 6.


Prenatal life represents a susceptible window of development during which chemical exposures can permanently alter fetal development, leading to an increased likelihood of disease later in life. Therefore, it is essential to assess exposure in the fetus. However, direct assessment in human fetuses is challenging, so most research measures maternal exposure. Pregnancy induces a range of significant physiological changes in women that may affect chemical metabolism and responses. Moreover, placental function, fetal sex, and pregnancy complications may further modify these exposures. The purpose of this narrative review is to give an overview of major pregnancy-related physiological changes, including placental function and impacts of pregnancy complications, to summarize existing studies assessing chemical exposure in human fetal organs, and to discuss possible interactions between physiological changes and exposures. Our review reveals major knowledge gaps in factors affecting fetal chemical exposure, highlighting the need to develop more sophisticated tools for chemical health risk assessment in fetuses.

Keywords: Chemical exposure; Endocrine-disrupting chemical; Fetal development; Physiological adaptation; Placenta; Pregnancy complication.