Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products may Trigger Preterm Birth

The results of a new scientific study suggest that chemicals present in the vagina, possibly from personal care/feminine hygiene products, may play a role in causing spontaneous preterm births*.  A study of 232 pregnant women revealed that a small number of non-biological chemicals, commonly found in cosmetics and personal hygiene products, showed a strong correlation with preterm birth.


Study overview

Researchers measured over 700 different metabolites in the second-trimester metabolome** of 232 pregnant women, including 80 pregnancies that ended prematurely. The study found multiple metabolites that were significantly higher in women who had delivered early than in those who delivered at full term.

“Several of these metabolites are chemicals that are not produced by humans or microbes—what we call xenobiotics. These include diethanolamine, ethyl-beta glucoside, tartrate, and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. While we did not identify the source of these xenobiotics in our participants, all could be found in cosmetics and hygiene products.

-Tal Korem, Ph.D., researcher

*Preterm birth, childbirth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the number one cause of neonatal death and can lead to a variety of lifelong health issues. Two-thirds of preterm births occur spontaneously, but despite extensive research, there are no methods for predicting or preventing spontaneous preterm birth.

** A complete set of small molecules found in a particular biological niche, including metabolites produced by local cells and microorganisms and molecules that come from external sources.

Also seeChemicals Commonly Found in Cosmetics and Personal Hygiene Products Could Contribute to Preterm Birth

Journal reference: Kindschuh, W.F., et al.  Preterm birth is associated with xenobiotics and predicted by the vaginal metabolome.  Nature Microbiology Journal, 12 January 2023.

DOI: 10.1038/s41564-022-01293-8