• Rosemary Joyce

Plastic linked to premature birth

Updated: Aug 8, 2018

5 years ago a research study showed use of plastics is linked to a much greater risk of premature birth. I wrote an article on it at the time. The study was in the news headlines. And women were being warned to reduce their use of plastic during pregnancy. But 5 years later...

Everyone seems to have forgotten.

When's the last time you heard someone recommending a pregnant Mama should be wary of using products that contain phthalates? This is a chemical that is used to make plastic items flexible. It can be found in

  • Cling film

  • Many shampoos and conditioners

  • Some plastic containers

  • Computer cables

  • Some cosmetics

  • Some body lotions

  • Products that contain artificial 'fragrance', such as hairspray

The research done in 2013 showed Mamas who had high levels of phthalates in their urine during pregnancy had a 5 times increased risk of birthing their baby prematurely. That's a very strong association.

The movie "A Plastic Ocean" showed that phthalates is not just a problem for humans, but also for our marine friends. High levels are currently showing up in dolphins, suggesting small species of fish are consuming plastic found in the ocean, and this is getting fed up the food chain.

What can you do?

Prior to conception, and during pregnancy be aware of your plastic use and what chemicals are in your body products. Easy ways to make a change are:

  • Switch to eco-friendly body products or make your own

  • Grow your own veges, join a vege swap, or purchase veges not wrapped in cling film

  • Use beeswax wraps or foil to cover food

  • Use tin containers and glass jars to store food in where possible

  • Opt for products which contain no artificial fragrances

  • Recycle hard and soft plastics to avoid them ending up in the ocean

The reality is that in this day and age it is pretty much impossible to eliminate all phthalate exposure from your life. However, with a few simple changes you can significantly reduce your everyday use of products containing this chemical, and therefore decrease your risk of premature birth. These simple changes also greatly benefit the environment.

Planning a home birth? Consider yourself a bit of an eco-warrior? Why not reduce the waste associated with home birth by making an eco-friendly birth mat?! This is a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle, as well as eliminate the fear many families have of the 'birth mess'. You can find out how to make your own eco-friendly birth mat in the video below.


James, M. (2013). How to Avoid Phthalates (Even Though You Can’t Avoid Phthalates). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/maia-james/phthalates-health_b_2464248.html

Ferguson, K.K., Mcelrath, T.F., & Meeker, J.D. (2014). Environmental phthalate exposure and preterm birth. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(1), 61-67. 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3699.

Nightingale, T. (2013). University of Adelaide researchers find link between premature birth and phthalates used in plastics. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-19/common-plastics-chemical-linked-to-pre-term-births/5101828?utm_source=WHA+Contac&utm_campaign=a6b018da03-AHHA_e_healthcare_brief_11+June_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_910dbd9c84-a6b018da03-245395997&ct=t%28AHHA_e_healthcare_brief_21_March_20133_21_2013%29

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