Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, gestational weight gain, postpartum weight retention and body composition in the UPSIDE cohort

By Carolyn W. Kinkade, Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, Sally W. Thurston, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Richard K. Miller, Jessica Brunner, Eunyoung Wong, Susan Groth, Thomas G. O’Connor, and Emily S. Barrett
Environmental Health
September 11, 2023
DOI: 10.1186/s12940-023-01009-3


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals found in drinking water and consumer products, resulting in ubiquitous human exposure. PFAS have been linked to endocrine disruption and altered weight gain across the lifespan. A limited and inconsistent body of research suggests PFAS may impact gestational weight gain (GWG) and postpartum body mass index (BMI), which are important predictors of overall infant and maternal health, respectively.


In the Understanding Pregnancy Signals and Infant Development (UPSIDE/UPSIDE-MOMs) study (n = 243; Rochester, NY), we examined second trimester serum PFAS (PFOS: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, PFOA: perfluorooctanoic acid, PFNA: perfluorononanoic acid, PFHxS: perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, PFDA: perfluorodecanoic acid) in relation to GWG (kg, and weekly rate of gain) and in the postpartum, weight retention (PPWR (kg) and total body fat percentage (measured by bioelectrical impedance)). We fit multivariable linear regression models examining these outcomes in relation to log-transformed PFAS in the whole cohort as well as stratified by maternal pre-pregnancy BMI (< 25 vs. =  > 25 kg/m2), adjusting for demographics and lifestyle factors. We used weighted quantile sum regression to find the combined influence of the 5 PFAS on GWG, PPWR, and body fat percentage.


PFOA and PFHxS were inversely associated with total GWG (PFOA: ß = -1.54 kg, 95%CI: -2.79, -0.30; rate ß = -0.05 kg/week, 95%CI: -0.09, -0.01; PFHxS: ß = -1.59 kg, 95%CI: -3.39, 0.21; rate ß = -0.05 kg/week, 95%CI: -0.11, 0.01) and PPWR at 6 and 12 months (PFOA 6 months: ß = -2.39 kg, 95%CI: -4.17, -0.61; 12 months: ß = -4.02 kg, 95%CI: -6.58, -1.46; PFHxS 6 months: ß = -2.94 kg, 95%CI: -5.52, -0.35; 12 months: ß = -5.13 kg, 95%CI: -8.34, -1.93). PFOA was additionally associated with lower body fat percentage at 6 and 12 months (ß = -1.75, 95%CI: -3.17, -0.32; ß = -1.64, 95%CI: -3.43, 0.16, respectively) with stronger associations observed in participants with higher pre-pregnancy BMI. The PFAS mixture was inversely associated with weight retention at 12 months (ß = -2.030, 95%CI: -3.486, -0.573) amongst all participants.


PFAS, in particular PFOA and PFHxS, in pregnancy are associated with altered patterns of GWG and postpartum adiposity with potential implications for fetal development and long-term maternal cardiometabolic health.


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