A group of chemicals that mimic hormones, called phthalates, which are contained in processed foods and personal care products, have been linked to an increased risk of preterm delivery for pregnant women. According to the study in JAMA Pediatrics, women with higher levels of phthalates were two to five times more likely to deliver before 37 weeks.
Infants who are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are more likely to suffer from neurological problems and even an increased risk of death. Products that contain phthalates include hair products like shampoo and hair spray, perfumes, and detergents.
While more research is needed, study researcher John Meeker advises, “For women who are interested in reducing their exposure, reducing use of personal care products, buying phthalate-free [products] when possible, and eating fresher foods may help, although research on that is limited.”