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Are You Trying To Fall Pregnant?

Phthalate Exposure When You Are Trying to Conceive – What Can You Do?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly used to soften PVC and as a solvent in cosmetics and personal care products.  Exposure to these chemicals can occur when we use products such as makeup on our face, PVC toys, vinyl shower curtains, car seats, wallpaper and many, many other consumer products.  

Studies have shown these chemicals can cause a range of issues in humans and are particularly harmful to babies in utero, so it stands to reason that ladies who are, or want to become, or already are pregnant, reduce their exposure. 

Avoiding it altogether will be quite tricky as this chemical found everywhere, but, we the consumers, have the power!!  Making small changes to our purchasing patterns not only informs producers that we don't want products made with these chemicals, but it also reduces ours and our little one's exposure.    

The main impact phthalates have on our systems is that it is an endocrine disruptor – this means it mimics hormones and therefore affects the growth and development of the reproductive system of babies, particularly the male reproductive tract.  Exposure to phthalates can cause liver, kidney, and lung damage in children and adults. Recent human studies have shown prenatal exposure can be associated with adverse impacts in baby's neurodevelopment, problems with attention, hyperactivity and poor social communication.

So, choose phthalate-free bottles, toys, cosmetics and lotions, we use for ourselves and our babies.  If you are bottle-feeding your baby choose bottles made of glass that are 100% PBA and phthalate-free—select toys made from wood, not PVC. Choose plates and utensils made of bamboo or recycled phthalate-free plastic. There are so many easy ways to reduce your exposure.

The article below, written by Dr Claire McCarthy of Harvard Health Publishing, provides further information on phthalates and tips on how to avoid exposure during pregnancy. 


Something else to avoid in pregnancy: Phthalates

POSTED MARCH 15, 2019, 6:30 AM , UPDATED MARCH 19, 2019, 11:45 AM

Claire McCarthy, MD
Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Most pregnant women know that they should avoid things like alcohol and tobacco while they are pregnant, as well as certain foods like sushi and soft cheeses. But not many pregnant women think about avoiding lipstick, perfume, or lotions — and it turns out that they probably should.

The problem is a type of chemical called phthalates. It's nearly impossible to avoid phthalates entirely, as they are quite literally everywhere. They are in plastic products including packaging, in toys and garden hoses, as well as in cosmetics and other personal care products. They can act like hormones and interfere with male genital development, as well as increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The risks of phthalates, though, begin before birth. A study has shown children whose mothers are exposed to phthalates during pregnancy were more likely to have problems with motor skills. The skills that we use not just in sports but also everyday activities and another showed that the children of mothers exposed during pregnancy had problems with language development.

Even if it's impossible to avoid phthalates entirely, there are ways women can decrease their exposure:

  • Limit exposure to plastics, especially anything with the number 3 or 7 on them. Use glass, ceramic, or metal containers for food and drink.
  • Try to buy foods that don't come in plastic packaging.
  • If you have to use plastic, don't microwave it, and wash it by hand rather than in the dishwasher to limit the leaching out of chemicals.
  • Avoid anything with fragrance in it; phthalates are commonly used in making fragrances.
  • Look into handmade cosmetic and personal products that don't use any chemicals (and skip the products entirely when you can). The Environmental Working Group has a database you can use to learn more about commercial products.
  • Go DIY. Use products such as honey, coconut oil, baking soda, vinegar, and salt in place of many commercial beauty products. Do a little research — you may find that it's easier than you think to make a moisturizer, a shampoo, or a perfume.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Once the baby is born, continue to be mindful about chemicals that can cause harm. Look for fragrance-free products that are as all-natural as possible, keep up with DIY including for cleaning products, and limit plastics in the house, especially baby bottles and toys. We cannot escape all the harmful chemicals around us, but by getting back to basics, we can make things safer for our children.


Health Care Without Harm, 2020, Phthalates and DEHP, Health Care Without Harm US & Canada, 7 February 2020

McCarthy, Claire, 2019, Something Else to Avoid in Pregnancy: Phthalates, Harvard Health Publishing, 7 February 2020



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