Associations between repeated measures of maternal urinary phthalate metabolites during pregnancy and cord blood glucocorticoids

Xiaojie Sun, Jiufeng Li, Shuna Jin, Yuanyuan Li, Wenyu Liu, Hongzhi Zhao, Yanqiu Zhou, Yangqian Jiang, Hongxiu Liu, Wei Xia, Zongwei CAI, Shunqing Xu*, Xiantao Shen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Previous studies have suggested that phthalates might disrupt fetal steroidogenesis. However, the evidence of the effects of prenatal phthalate exposure across pregnancy on fetal glucocorticoids was insufficient. Objective: We investigated the associations between urinary phthalate metabolites across pregnancy and cord blood glucocorticoids in a prospective birth cohort. Methods: Our study included 553 mother-infant pairs from a prospective birth cohort conducted in Wuhan, China. Maternal urine samples were collected at 14, 24 and 36 weeks of gestation (mean). Urinary phthalate metabolites and cord blood glucocorticoids (cortisol and cortisone) were measured. Generalized estimating equation models were conducted to explore the relationships of phthalate metabolite concentrations at each trimester and glucocorticoid levels. Results: Among the participants, mono‑benzyl phthalate (MBzP) in the first trimester was associated with higher cortisol/cortisone ratio concentrations, and mono‑(2‑ethyl‑5‑carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP) and mono‑(2‑ethyl‑5‑oxohexyl) phthalate (MEOHP) measured in the third trimester were associated with decreased cortisone. Moreover, the associations between phthalates and glucocorticoids varied by sex. Among the female infants, each 10-fold increase in several maternal urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations in 1st and 3rd trimester was associated with the increased glucocorticoid levels with percent changes ranged from 16.2%–55.9%. However, among male infants, each 10-fold increase in maternal urinary MECPP, mono‑(2‑ethyl‑5‑hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (MEHHP) and MEOHP in 3rd trimester was associated with 20.8%–36.3% decreased cortisol and cortisone levels, respectively. Conclusion: We have shown that prenatal phthalate exposure during early and late trimester disrupted the infant steroidogenesis and these associations might be modified by infant sex. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate phthalate exposure at three trimesters during pregnancy in relation to infant glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Glucocorticoid
  • Phthalate
  • Prenatal exposure
  • Trimester-specific


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