Women with higher levels of PFAS in their system may be 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals used as oil and water repellents and coatings for common products including cookware, carpets and textiles. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals do not break down when they are released into the environment, and they continue to accumulate over time. PFAS chemicals can affect pregnancy outcomes, the timing of puberty and other aspects of reproductive health.
Our findings are important because almost every human on the planet is exposed to PFAS. These man-made chemicals accumulate in our bodies and have detrimental effects on reproductive health. Early unwanted weaning has been traditionally attributed to psychological factors, which are without a doubt important, but hopefully our research will help shift the focus and highlight that not all mothers can breastfeed despite good intentions and support from family and healthcare professionals."
Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, Ph.D., study's first author, assistant professor of the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, Denmark
The researchers analyzed blood samples for PFAS and prolactin concentrations from up to 1,286 pregnant women from the Odense Child Cohort. The women provided information about the duration of breastfeeding in weekly text messages or questionnaires at three and eighteen months postpartum. The researchers found women with higher levels of PFAS in their system were 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early.
"Because breastfeeding is crucial to promote both child and maternal health, adverse PFAS effects on the ability to breastfeed may have long-term health consequences," Timmermann said.
Timmerman, C.A.G., et al. (2021) Pregnancy Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances, Prolactin Concentrations and Breastfeeding in the Odense Child Cohort. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgab638.