Women exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly found in plastics used frequently around the home during pregnancy are at a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression, suggested a new study. The findings of the study were published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Chemicals such as bisphenols and phthalates that are found in plastics and personal care products are known to affect sex hormones. While Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins (think household products made of hard plastic like water and infant bottles, food storage boxes, compact discs, and in the coating of canned foods), phthalates are common in toys, vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products such as nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrance preparations.
"We found that phthalate exposure was associated with lower progesterone levels during pregnancy and a greater likelihood of developing postpartum depression," said study author Melanie Jacobson, Ph.D., M.P.H. of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, N.Y.
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Jacobson added, "This research is important because phthalates are so prevalent in the environment that they are detectable in nearly all pregnant women. If these chemicals can affect prenatal hormone levels and subsequently postpartum depression, reducing exposure to these types of chemicals could be a plausible avenue for preventing postpartum depression."
"These results need to be interpreted with caution as this is the first study to examine these chemicals in relation to postpartum depression and our sample size was small," Jacobson concluded.
To avoid exposure to these chemicals, look for BPA-free plastics for daily use; experts also suggest avoiding using plastic cookware and containers in the microwave even if the packaging says it's BPA-free. For personal care products, look for brands that are free of phthalates, sulfates and parabens. Many homegrown organic product brands offer these options. Phthalates, if identified on a label, are usually listed with an acronym like DHEP or DiBP.