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Can Phthalates Hurt Your Chances of Becoming Pregnant?

These commonly used chemicals may disrupt the female reproductive system

It is difficult to avoid chemicals in our everyday lives-- they are added to many products and act as a preservative or a sealant. Phthalates are one type of chemical which is commonly added to plastics to make them more flexible and durable-- and is why they are also called plasticizers. They can be found in anything from detergents, nail polish, hair spray, and adhesives-- and most people are unaware of their prevalence in products that they use daily.


A recent study done at the University of Illinois on the effects of phthalates on female mice appears to have shown that the chemicals can disrupt their reproductive cycle-- and limit their ability to become pregnant for up to nine months after.


In this article we’re going to examine:


  • What were the effects of phthalates on the mice?
  • Can human reproductive systems be affected in the same way?


group of mice together
A study observing the effects of phthalates on the fertility of mice has shown it can limit their chances of conception.

What Effects Do Phthalates Have on Mice?

The female mice in this study were given realistic doses of phthalates DiNP and DEHP-- which were comparable to doses that humans would be exposed to in their everyday lives. After 10 days of doses, these mice-- as well as those in the control group-- were allowed to mate with unaffected male mice. The researchers found that after three months, one third of the mice in the phthalates group were still unable to become pregnant-- while the mice in the control group had a pregnancy rate of 95%.


It surprised the researchers that the reproductive systems of the mice was still affected long after exposure to phthalates had ceased. It appeared that the chemicals had disrupted the steroid hormone production in the mice-- causing their estrous cycles to look different from that of the control group. The mice that were treated with DiNP and DEHP that did become pregnant had significantly less offspring than those that were untreated-- causing the researchers to hypothesize that the uterine lining of of the mice were also affected by the phthalates.


jar of beauty cream
Phthalates are commonly found in skin care and other personal care items.

Can Humans Experience the Same Results?

Other studies have noticed a link between phthalates and fertility-- and found that infertile women had shown increased levels of phthalates exposure in their systems. The researchers hypothesized that these chemicals could not only make the uterus less receptive to conception-- but they also may cause an early end to the female reproductive cycle. Studies have linked phthalates in cosmetics and skin care products that can increase the chances of early menopause in women.


There have been no studies done on humans to directly observe the effects of the phthalates like those done on the mice, however, it does seem these chemicals are responsible for inhibiting the release of sex steroid hormones in mice. So much so that they still have difficulty conceiving months after their exposure had ended. The scientists found it troubling that the effects were still felt in the mice months afterwards-- considering that these chemicals do not stay long in the system.


Chemicals can make our lives easier-- they provide storage, preservation, colors, and sealant to many things we use daily. It is disturbing to see that phthalates can have such an effect on the reproductive system of female mice-- and may cause similar problems in women.


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Bridget Houlihan

Bridget Houlihan is a writer, poet, and cat mom living in Pittsburgh, PA.
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