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Parabens And Pregnancy - Should You Be Concerned?

Dec 6, 2007
Parabens have been used as preservatives since the early 1920s, and are utilised in preventing the growth of bacteria. They are used in a wide range of consumer products, especially in cosmetics, including skin care products, shampoos and conditioners, facial and body cosmetics, sun screens, underarm products and soaps.

Just have a look in your bathroom cabinet and see how many products contain ingredients such as methyl-, propyl-, butyl- or ethyl-paraben or ingredients such as p-hydroxynenzoate (PHB) esters. Parabens have been widely accepted and used because they are effective preservatives, are inexpensive and are rapidly excreted from the body.

However, more recent studies, including ones in Japan and the UK have shown that parabens are oestrogenic, meaning they mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body, and may even contribute to problems including male fertility and an increased risk of breast cancer, because they are believed to be acting like hormones and disrupting the body's immune system.

For pregnant women, in particular, this raises issues with the type of make-up or skin lotions that they use because of the long exposure time on the skin, and the fact that anything that you put on your skin will get under the skin and potentially reach the fetus.

However, little scientific information exists on whether the use of products with low levels of parabens over many years results in an accumulation of parabens in body tissues and whether there are or are not any health issues associated with the use of consumer products including parabens.

A study first published in 2004 (Darbre, in the Journal of Applied Toxicology) detected parabens in breast tumours. However, the study was inconclusive failing to answer many of the questions raised. By way of example, this study did not demonstrate that parabens caused cancer, or even that they were harmful. In fact, the study did not review the possible levels of parabens in normal tissue.

But although parabens are not yet proven to be a danger to health, at a time when you are pregnant do you want to take any risk that is avoidable? Would you really be prepared to take that chance unless you were 100% certain that there were no harmful effects?

For many women, the answer is no and so they are changing their skin care regimes and choice of cosmetics to products that do not contain parabens as preservatives. This is often a decision made on the grounds that 'avoidance is the best strategy'. While the scientific jury is still out on the safety or otherwise of parabens, who can argue with that philosophy? The best advice is to be aware of the issue, carefully read the list of ingredients on any product that you put on your skin, look at the alternatives that are available, and then make an informed choice.

There are many now many specialist retailers online who stock a wide range of products for pregnant women that do not contain parabens and you should shop around to find which would be most suitable for you.
About the Author
Andrew Smith is a Director of MumsTheWord, a leading supplier of Natural and Organic Mother and Baby Care Products.
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