Even when women do their best to have a safe pregnancy, chemicals commonly found in the home could still raise their risk for premature delivery, a new study shows.
The chemicals — called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) — are used as flame retardants in items like furniture and carpets.
For the study, researchers analyzed blood samples from over 3,500 pregnant women, including 184 whose babies were born early, for blood levels of PBDEs. Nearly all had detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood. Women were divided into four groups based on those levels.
After accounting for other risk factors for premature birth — such as ethnicity, age and smoking during pregnancy — the researchers found that women with the highest PBDE levels had 75% higher odds for suddenly going into early labor after an otherwise normal pregnancy, compared to women with the lowest levels.
Women with PBDE concentrations above 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood were about twice as likely to deliver early via cesarean section or induced labor due to safety concerns for mother or baby, the study found.