Man-made plastic chemicals linked to higher postpartum depression: Study

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New York, Sep 23 (IANS) Higher prenatal phthalate levels may increase the risk of postpartum depression, a new study has revealed.

According to the study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, postpartum depression affects up to 20 per cent of new mothers, making it the most common pregnancy complication to occur after delivery.

Researchers from the US National Institutes of Health, Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) programme wanted to examine how chemicals such as phenols, phthalates, and parabens, commonly found in plastics might play a role in postpartum depression symptoms with factors like genetics and stress.

To conduct the study, researchers measured the concentrations of these chemicals in urine samples of 2,174 pregnant individuals at five ECHO Cohort Study Sites. Those same individuals also completed depression assessments between two weeks and 12 months after delivery to check for postpartum depression symptoms.

Researchers then harmonised data to the Patient-Reported Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Depression scale and found that higher levels of phthalates, in particular those found in products such as personal care items and plastic consumer products, were associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression.

“Finding new ways to prevent postpartum depression is crucial because most of the known risk factors, like genetics and stressful life events, can’t be altered,” said Melanie Jacobson, PhD, MPH of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.

“Therefore, focusing on prenatal exposure to these types of chemicals represents a novel interventional target,” she added.

The presence of these man-made chemicals in people is common due to frequent exposure through diet, absorption through the skin, and inhalation, the study said.

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