Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

How Weight Gain During Pregnancy Could Protect Your Baby From Toxic Chemicals

Health + Wellness
How Weight Gain During Pregnancy Could Protect Your Baby From Toxic Chemicals

Gaining more weight during pregnancy can substantially reduce a baby’s exposure to pesticides that accumulate in a mother’s body, according to new research.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Pregnant women who don’t gain enough weight lose fat when the fetus grows. This releases fat-soluble chemicals such as DDT into the bloodstream, which reaches the fetus.

“This study suggests that sufficient weight gain during pregnancy may help to dilute certain chemicals that store in fat, reducing exposure to the fetus,” said Jonathan Chevrier, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal who did not participate in the research.

Exposure to persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, in the womb has been linked to developmental disorders and learning delays, reduced immune system function and changes in hormones.

Only a few studies have investigated how pregnancy weight gain may affect a baby’s exposures.

In the new study, scientists compared weight gain for 325 expectant mothers from Avilés, Spain, with the levels of 35 chemicals in their babies’ umbilical cord blood. Included were brominated flame retardants, organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The babies’ exposure to all the chemicals decreased as pregnancy weight gain increased, according to the study. However, when the scientists accounted for other factors known to influence concentrations—such as a mother’ s age and how much fish she ate—the association was significant for only two chemicals: a byproduct of the insecticide lindane called beta-HCH and a DDT metabolite.

DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972 because it was building up in the environment. Agricultural use of lindane was banned in 2006 due to concerns over its effects on the nervous system.

For every pound of pregnancy weight gain, the researchers saw a 0.75 percent decrease in DDE in the cord blood and a 1.4 percent decrease in beta-HCH. For the average woman who gained about 31 pounds during pregnancy, that’s about a 22 percent decrease in DDE and a 42 percent decrease in beta-HCH.

The researchers from Spain’s University of Oviedo wrote that if a pregnant woman has inadequate body fat, she could lose fat stores during the last trimester, when the baby grows rapidly. “This mobilization effect to meet the fetal demand may trigger the release of POPs to the bloodstream, where they may become available and cross the placenta barrier,” they said in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization recommend that normal-weight women (determined by the Body Mass Index) gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. In the new study, more than 40 percent of mothers gained excessive weight while 25 percent of mothers gained too little. Mothers were asked to recall their own starting weight, so it’s possible that some may have gained more or less than recorded.

For PCBs, there may have been no significant link to weight gain because the mothers’ consumption of fish is a stronger factor determining their babies’ exposures. PCBs have been linked to reduced IQs and other effects in children exposed in the womb.

——–

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

New Study Finds Miscarriage Risk Increases With BPA Exposure

Is It Time to Detox?

30% Jump in Autism Rates Brings Greater Urgency to Toxic Chemical Reform

——–

A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures. Hollie Adams / Getty Images

By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

Read More Show Less

Trending

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less
Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less