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Another research result from the American Gut Project, an amazing crowdsourced project. While differences were found in the fecal microbiome (microbial community) of adults born by cesarean section vs vaginal delivery, it is unknown whether this has any possible effects on diseases or risks of diseases during adulthood. This study is online as of 8 November 2014, but still In Press. From EBioMedicine:

Diversity and Composition of the Adult Fecal Microbiome Associated with History of Cesarean Birth or Appendectomy: Analysis of the American Gut Project

Adults born by cesarean section appear to have a distinctly different composition of their fecal microbial population. Whether this distinction was acquired during birth, and whether it affects risk of disease during adulthood, are unknown.

Prenatal and early postnatal exposures and events can affect the entire life course. As one example, cesarean birth has been associated with an increased likelihood of asthma and cardiovascular disease in children (Renz-Polster et al., 2005, Thavagnanam et al., 2008 and Friedemann et al., 2012), hypertension in young adults (Horta et al., 2013), and obesity in both children and adults (Pei et al., 2014, Darmasseelane et al., 2014,Blustein et al., 2013 and Mueller et al., 2014). ... As well summarized by Arrieta and colleagues, several studies have noted differences in the neonatal fecal microbiota by route of delivery (Arrieta et al., 2014). ... More recently, with comprehensive analysis based on next generation sequencing of 16S rRNA genes, Dominguez-Bello and colleagues reported that route of delivery was associated with differences in the composition of the microbial populations that initially colonized the offspring. Notably, neonates who were born vaginally were colonized by vagina-associated bacteria, whereas those born by cesarean section were initially colonized by skin-associated bacteria ( Dominguez-Bello et al., 2010).

Early life alteration of the gut microbiota may have a lasting effect. Trasande et al. observed that exposure to antibiotics up to age 6 months was associated with elevated body mass index (BMI) up to age 7 years (Trasande et al., 2013).

The 16S rRNA V4 region was sequenced by the American Gut Project....Of the 1097 participants, cesarean birth was reported as “yes” by 92, “no” by 948, and missing or uncertain by 57. Likewise, appendectomy was reported as “yes” by 155, “no” by 961, and missing or uncertain by 21.

This analysis was primarily motivated by the observation that the composition of the microbiome of neonates differed significantly between those born vaginally and those born by cesarean section (Arrieta et al., 2014 and Dominguez-Bello et al., 2010). With vaginal delivery, the neonatal microbiome resembled the vaginal microbiome, with high relative abundance of Prevotella and especially Lactobacillus taxa. In contrast, cesarean-delivered neonates had a diverse array of taxa resembling the skin microbial community, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Propionibacterineae, Haemophilus, and Acinetobacter ( Dominguez-Bello et al., 2010). Cesarean-delivered neonates and infants typically have a paucity of Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species ( Arrieta et al., 2014).

In the current analysis, we observed that the fecal microbiome composition differed in adults who reported that they had been delivered by cesarean section. This suggests that a difference by route of delivery may persist into adulthood. Of the taxa noted to be increased in cesarean-delivered neonates and infants ( Arrieta et al., 2014, Penders et al., 2006 and Dominguez-Bello et al., 2010), only Haemophilus and certain Clostridia genera had elevated abundance in the fecal microbiome of cesarean-delivered adults ( Table 3).

The studies are adding up that phthalates are harmful to humans of all ages, but uniquely so to the developing fetus. Boys exposed to high levels of phthalates before birth may have slightly altered genitals, specifically a shortened anogenital distance (the length between the anus and the genitals). This is concerning because in adulthood, this is associated with reduced semen quality and lower fertility in males - and considered a sign of incomplete masculinization. So try to avoid or lower exposure to phthalates during pregnancy (see posts on ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS). From Environmental Health Perspectives:

Plastics chemical linked to changes in baby boys' genitals

Boys exposed in the womb to high levels of a chemical found in vinyl products are born with slightly altered genital development, according to research published today.The study of nearly 200 Swedish babies is the first to link the chemical di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) to changes in the development of the human male reproductive tract.

Previous studies of baby boys in three countries found that a similar plastics chemical, DEHP, was associated with the same type of changes in their genitalia. Less is known about the reproductive risks of DiNP, a chemical which scientists say may be replacing DEHP in many products such as vinyl toys, flooring and packaging. In mice, high levels block testosterone and alter testicular development.

“Our data suggest that this substitute phthalate may not be safer than the chemical it is replacing,” wrote the researchers, led by Carl-Gustaf Bornehag at Sweden’s Karlstad University, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Levels of DiNP in U.S. adults and children have more than doubled in the past decade.

The researchers measured metabolites of five phthalates in the urine of pregnant women during the first trimester. Development of male reproductive organs begins during that period, said senior study author Shanna Swan, a professor of reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The researchers then measured the anogenital distance – the length between the anus and the genitals – when the boys were on average 21 months old. Boys who had been exposed to the highest levels of DiNP in the womb averaged a distance that was slightly shorter – about seven-hundredths of an inch – than the boys with the lowest exposures. “These were really subtle changes,” Swan said.

Considered a sign of incomplete masculinization, shortened anogenital distance in men has been associated with abnormal testicular development and reduced semen quality and fertility. In men, this measurement is typically 50 to 100 percent longer than in women. But it’s unknown whether a slightly shorter distance in infants corresponds with any fertility problems later in life.

For other phthalates, the study found shorter anogenital distance with higher concentrations, but the findings were not statistically significant, meaning they may have been due to chance. The Swedish women in the new study had phthalate levels similar to U.S. women in Swan's previous studies. Those studies, published in 2005 and 2008, linked several phthalates to shorter anogenital distance.

The scientists said exposures to the chemical can come from food or through skin contact with home furnishings or child-care articles. In 2008, the United States temporarily banned use of DiNP and two other phthalate plasticizers in toys and other children's products.... While it’s nearly impossible to eliminate exposure to phthalates, Swan suggested that pregnant women may be able to reduce their exposures by incorporating unprocessed, unpackaged foods into the diet and by avoiding heating or storing foods in plastic containers.

Some recent research on sperm quality and implications for fertility. All from Science Daily:

Exposure to aluminum may impact on male fertility, research suggests

Research from scientists in the UK and France suggests that human exposure to aluminum may be a significant factor in falling sperm counts and reduced male fertility.Fluorescence microscopy using an aluminum-specific stain confirmed the presence of aluminum in semen and showed aluminum inside individual sperm.And the team of scientists, at the universities of Lyon and Saint-Etienne in France and Keele in the UK, found that the higher the aluminum, the lower sperm count.

Professor Exley said: "There has been a significant decline in male fertility, including sperm count, throughout the developed world over the past several decades and previous research has linked this to environmental factors such as endocrine disruptors"..."Human exposure to aluminum has increased significantly over the same time period and our observation of significant contamination of male semen by aluminum must implicate aluminum as a potential contributor to these changes in reproductive fertility."

Stress degrades sperm quality, study shows

Psychological stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality, affecting its concentration, appearance, and ability to fertilize an egg, according to a study. It is not fully understood how stress affects semen quality. It may trigger the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which in turn could blunt levels of testosterone and sperm production. Another possibility is oxidative stress, which has been shown to affect semen quality and fertility.

Twenty hours of TV a week linked to almost half sperm count of those who watch little TV

Healthy young men who watch TV for more than 20 hours a week have almost half the sperm count of men who watch very little TV, indicates a new study.

Cell phones negatively affect male fertility, new study suggests

Men who keep a cell phone in their pant pocket could be inadvertently damaging their chances of becoming a father, according to a new study. Previous research has suggested that radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by the devices can have a detrimental effect on male fertility. Most of the global adult population own mobile phones, and around 14% of couples in high and middle income countries have difficulty conceiving.

In control groups, 50-85% of sperm have normal movement. The researchers found this proportion fell by an average of 8 percentage points when there was exposure to mobile phones. Similar effects were seen for sperm viability. The effects on sperm concentration were less clear. 

Moderate weekly alcohol intake linked to poorer sperm quality in healthy young men

Moderate alcohol intake of at least 5 units every week is linked to poorer sperm quality in otherwise healthy young men, suggests research. And the higher the weekly tally of units, the worse the sperm quality seems to be, the findings indicate, prompting the researchers to suggest that young men should be advised to steer clear of habitual drinking.

Sperm size, shape in young men affected by cannabis use

Young men who use cannabis may be putting their fertility at risk by inadvertently affecting the size and shape of their sperm, according to new research. In the world's largest study to investigate how common lifestyle factors influence the size and shape of sperm, a research team found that sperm size and shape was worse in samples ejaculated in the summer months, but was better in men who had abstained from sexual activity for more than six days.

Another reason to be concerned about air pollution. And another study showing a link with environmental chemicals (this time coarse and fine particulate matter, known as PM10, which arises in part from traffic-related air pollution) and autism. From Science Daily:

Researcher adds to evidence linking autism to air pollutants

A researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has added to a growing body of evidence that links autism to air pollutants such as those generated by cars and trucks.

Amy Kalkbrenner's study, published this week online at the journal Epidemiology, showed that pollution's impact on autism rates in North Carolina is similar to results of pollution-autism studies in California -- despite weather and climate differences between the two states. In addition, the work of Kalkbrenner and her colleagues, building on previous studies, showed that women in the third trimester of pregnancy were more susceptible to the damaging effects of air pollution on their unborn child.

"It adds another piece supporting the hypothesis that environmental chemicals are part of the autism puzzle," says Kalkbrenner, an assistant professor in UWM's Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health. Autism, a spectrum of disorders affecting interpersonal relations and work achievement, now affects some 1 in 68 children in the U.S.

Her research team focused on exposure to coarse and fine particulate matter, known as PM10, which arises in part from traffic-related air pollution...Researchers used a new, more exact tool to measure the levels of particulate matter in smaller slices of time, based on pollution at the family's address during pregnancy. With this method, they were able to compare exposures during specific weeks of pregnancy. The approximately one thousand children who later developed some form of autism spectrum disorders were then compared to all other children.

Reasons for increased susceptibility in the third trimester of pregnancy are not known at this time. However, Kalkbrenner says this finding is consistent with theories that show links between autism and altered brain network development, specifically synaptic connections that are developing during the final months of pregnancy.

Very exciting new way to use probiotics! Huge potential. From Science Daily:

Probiotics protect children, pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning

Yogurt containing probiotic bacteria successfully protected children and pregnant women against heavy metal exposure in a recent study. Canadian and Tanzanian researchers created and distributed a special yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria and observed  the outcomes against a control group.

A research team from the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics, led by Dr. Gregor Reid, studied how microbes could protect against environmental health damage in poor parts of the world. Their lab research indicated that L. rhamnosus had a great affinity for binding toxic heavy metals. Working with this knowledge, the team hypothesized that regularly consuming this probiotic strain could prevent metals from being absorbed from the diet.

Working with the Western Heads East organization, Dr. Reid had already established a network of community kitchens in Mwanza, Tanzania to produce a probiotic yogurt for the local population. Mwanza is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, which is known to be polluted with pesticides and toxic metals including mercury. The team utilized this network to produce and distribute a new type of yogurt containing L. rhamnosus. The special yogurt was distributed to a group of pregnant women and a group of children. The researchers measured the baseline and post-yogurt levels of toxic metals.

The team found a significant protective effect of the probiotic against mercury and arsenic in the pregnant women. This is important as "reduction in these compounds in the mothers could presumably decrease negative developmental effects in their fetus and newborns," according to Dr. Reid. While the results obtained in the children studied showed benefits and lower toxin levels, the sample size and duration of treatment did not allow statistical significance.

The link between pesticide exposure (pesticides used in the home or in the garden or lawn) and childhood brain tumors has been known for years. From Science Daily:

Factors associated with childhood brain tumors identified

Older parents, birth defects, maternal nutrition and childhood exposure to CT scans and pesticides are increasingly being associated with brain tumors in children, according to new research. Brain and central nervous system tumors are the second leading cause of cancer death in children.

A team of researchers, led by Kimberly Johnson, PhD, assistant professor of social work at the Brown School, a member of the Institute for Public Health and a research member of Siteman Cancer Center, examined studies published since 2004 that analyzed the incidence of childhood brain tumors and survival in different parts of the world.

In this research, binge drinking was defined as drinking four or more units of alcohol in a day on at least one occasion during the pregnancy.From Science Daily:

Binge drinking in pregnancy can affect child's mental health, school results

Binge drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of mental health problems (particularly hyperactivity and inattention) in children aged 11 and can have a negative effect on their school examination results, according to new research on more than 4,000 participants.  This builds on earlier research on the same children that found a link between binge drinking in pregnancy and their mental health when aged four and seven, suggesting that problems can persist as a child gets older. Other effects, such as on academic performance, may only become apparent later in a child's life.

Women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should be aware of the possible risks associated with episodes of heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs on an occasional basis.'The consumption of four or more drinks in a day may increase the risk for hyperactivity and inattention problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are low.

From Science Daily: Healthy lifestyle could prevent nearly half of all diabetic pregnancies

Nearly half of all cases of diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, could be prevented if young women eat well, exercise regularly and stop smoking before and during pregnancy, finds a study.

Several modifiable risk factors before pregnancy have been identified over the past decade. These include maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and not smoking.So a team of researchers based in the United States set out to examine the effect of these "low risk" lifestyle factors on the risk of gestational diabetes -- and measure the portion of the condition that may be preventable through adhering to them.

The strongest individual risk factor for gestational diabetes was pre-existing overweight or obesity -- having a body mass index (BMI) above 25 before pregnancy. Women with a BMI above 33 were over four times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women who had a normal BMI before pregnancy. ..Compared with women who did not meet any of the low risk lifestyle factors, those meeting all four criteria had an 83% lower risk of developing gestational diabetes.

The bottom line is to read the ingredients list on products, and avoid all products labeled "antimicrobial" or "antibacterial" (because those are the ones typically containing triclosan and triclorocarban). Over 2000 products contain antibacterial compounds. I've even seen them in pillows, pillow protectors, mattress pads, dish racks, toys, and blankets! As we know from the latest microbiology research, we need to cultivate a healthy microbiome, and not throw it out of whack by continuously trying to kill off all bacteria. From The Atlantic:

It's Probably Best to Avoid Antibacterial Soaps

Antimicrobial chemicals are so ubiquitous that a recent study found them in pregnant mothers' urine and newborns' cord blood. Research shows that their risks may outweigh their benefits.

Antimicrobial chemicals, intended to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, are commonly found in not just soaps, but all kinds of products—toothpaste, cosmetics, and plastics among them. There is evidence that the chemicals aren’t always effective, and may even be harmful, and their ubiquity means people are often continually exposed to them. One such chemical, triclosan, has previously been found in many human bodily fluids. New research found traces of triclosan, triclocarban, and butyl paraben in the urine of pregnant women, and the cord blood of newborn infants. 

The research looked at the same population of 180 expectant mothers living in Brooklyn, New York, most of Puerto Rican descent. In a study published last week in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Arizona State University and State University of New York’s Downstate School of Public Health found triclosan in 100 percent of the women’s urine samples, and triclocarban in 87 percent of the samples. Of the 33 cord blood samples they looked at, 46 percent contained triclosan and 23 percent contained triclocarban.

In another, still-unpublished study, the researchers found that all of the cord blood samples contained “at least one paraben,” according to Dr. Rolf Halden, director of ASU’s Center for Environmental Security. 

Triclosan and triclocarban are endocrine disruptors, Halden explains. The risk there is that the chemicals can mimic thyroid hormones, potentially disrupting the metabolism and causing weight gain or weight loss. Previous research has also shown a connection between higher levels of triclosan in urine, and allergy diagnoses in children.

In the study looking at butyl paraben, the researchers found an association between higher exposure to the chemical, and a smaller head circumference and length of babies after they were born. Butyl paraben is used as a preservative, so it’s found in a wider breadth of products, according to Halden.

From Science News: Pregnant women, fetuses exposed to antibacterial compounds face potential health risks 


As the Food and Drug Administration mulls over whether to rein in the use of common antibacterial compounds that are causing growing concern among environmental health experts, scientists are reporting that many pregnant women and their fetuses are being exposed to these substances. The compounds are used in more than 2,000 everyday products marketed as antimicrobial, including toothpastes, soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, school supplies and toys, the researchers say.

The problem with this, explains Pycke, a research scientist at Arizona State University (ASU), is that there is a growing body of evidence showing that the compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and potentially in humans. Also, some research suggests that the additives could contribute to antibiotic resistance, a growing public health problem.

Although the human body is efficient at flushing out triclosan and triclocarban, a person's exposure to them can potentially be constant. "If you cut off the source of exposure, eventually triclosan and triclocarban would quickly be diluted out, but the truth is that we have universal use of these chemicals, and therefore also universal exposure," says Rolf Halden, Ph.D., the lead investigator of the study at ASU.

This article summarizes some of the same things I've been posting here. From NY Times:

We Are Our Bacteria

We may think of ourselves as just human, but we’re really a mass of microorganisms housed in a human shell. Every person alive is host to about 100 trillion bacteria cells. They outnumber human cells 10 to one and account for 99.9 percent of the unique genes in the body.

Our collection of microbiota, known as the microbiome, is the human equivalent of an environmental ecosystem. Although the bacteria together weigh a mere three pounds, their composition determines much about how the body functions and, alas, sometimes malfunctions. Like ecosystems the world over, the human microbiome is losing its diversity, to the potential detriment of the health of those it inhabits.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser, a specialist in infectious diseases at the New York University School of Medicine and the director of the Human Microbiome Program, has studied the role of bacteria in disease for more than three decades. In his new book, “Missing Microbes,"Dr. Blaser links the declining variety within the microbiome to our increased susceptibility to serious, often chronic conditions,  from allergies and celiac disease to Type 1 diabetes and obesity. He and others primarily blame antibiotics for the connection.

The damaging effect of antibiotics on microbial diversity starts early, Dr. Blaser said. The average American child is given nearly three courses of antibiotics in the first two years of life, and eight more  during the next eight years. Even a short course of antibiotics like the widely prescribed  Z-pack (azithromycin, taken for five days), can result in long-term shifts in the body’s microbial environment.

But antibiotics are not the only way the balance within us can be disrupted. Cesarean deliveries, which  have soared  in recent decades, encourage the growth of microbes from the mother’s skin, instead of from the birth canal, in the baby’s gut, Dr. Blaser said in an interview.

This change in microbiota can reshape an infant’s metabolism and immune system. A recent review of 15 studies involving 163,796 births found that, compared with  babies delivered vaginally, those born by cesarean section were 26 percent more likely to be overweight and 22 percent more likely to be obese as adults. 

The placenta has a microbiome of its own, researchers have discovered, which may also contribute to the infant’s gut health and help mitigate the microbial losses caused by cesarean sections.

Further evidence of a link to obesity comes from farm animals. About three-fourths of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used  in  livestock. These  antibiotics change the animals’ microbiota, hastening their growth. When mice are given the same  antibiotics used on livestock, the metabolism of their liver changes, stimulating an increase in body fat, Dr. Blaser said.

Even more serious is  the increasing number of serious disorders now linked to a distortion in the microbial balance in the human gut. They include several that are becoming more common in developed countries: gastrointestinal ailments like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease; cardiovascular disease; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; digestive disorders like chronic reflux; autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis; and asthma and allergies.

The human vagina is another microbial community that is nowhere as simple as earlier thought - and it's not just Lactobacillus bacteria. From The Scientist:

Characterizing the “Healthy” Vagina

For years, researchers characterized the microbial community of women’s vaginas as being dominated by Lactobacillus bacteria, which ferment carbohydrates to lactic acid, yielding a low pH that is toxic to many pathogenic microbes. When levels of Lactobacillus drop, the pH becomes more neutral, and the risk of infection rises.

But with research revealing notable variation among women’s vaginal microbiomes, as well as some interesting dynamics of the microbial communities within a single organ, “that dogma is changing a little bit,” said Gregory Buck of the Vaginal Microbiome Consortium at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

The composition and stability of the vaginal microbiome varies by race, age, even within an individual—and it’s quickly become clear that the formula for a “normal,” “healthy” microbial community cannot be computed by ratios of bacterial species. “In the past we’ve made some generalizations about what kinds of bacteria are found in the vagina, what kinds of bacteria are good or healthy or protective,” said microbial ecologist Larry Forney of the University of Idaho. “What the research is showing is there are tremendous differences between women in terms of the kinds of bacteria that are present and the changes in the communities that occur over time.”

In June 2010, Forney, Jacques Ravel of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and their collaborators published a survey of the vaginal microbiomes of nearly 400 women and found that the majority harbored bacterial communities dominated by one of four Lactobacillus strains. More than a quarter of the women studied, however, did not follow this pattern. Instead, their vaginas had fewer Lactobacillus and greater numbers of other anaerobic bacteria, although the bacterial communities always included members of genera known to produce lactic acid.

In many ways, the microbiome of these women resembled the bacterial communities of women suffering from bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection characterized by an odorous vaginal discharge, Buck noted. “By looking at the microbial components, you’d say they have BV, but they have no clinical symptoms,” he said. “These people are not unhealthy.

The researchers also found that the composition of a woman’s vaginal microbiome was linked to her race. Eighty percent of Asian women and nearly 90 percent of white women harbored vaginal microbiomes that were dominated by Lactobacillus, while only about 60 percent of Hispanic and black women did. Moreover, vaginal pH varied with ethnicity as well, with Hispanic and black women averaging 5.0 and 4.7, respectively, and Asian and white women averaging 4.4 and 4.2. 

This raises questions about the role of the commensal bacteria and risk of preterm labor , which has been linked to BV—and to low levels of Lactobacillus in particular—and is one-and-a-half times more common among African American women than Caucasian women.

Meanwhile, the researchers continue to sort through 40,000 swabs from more than 6,000 women to better characterize the bacterial communities living in the vagina. But Fettweis and her colleagues face a common problem in microbiome research. “In many samples, only a fraction of [the genetic sequences] align to anything we have in our databases,” she said. “So I think there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of actually understanding: What are these organisms?”

Another question facing researchers probing the vaginal microbiome is how it is initially colonized. “Where do [the bacteria] come from?” said Forney.

Many suspect that the process occurs during vaginal childbirth. But the adolescent microbiome does not resemble that of a sexually mature woman, having far less Lactobacillus, leading some to suspect that there may be a second colonization of the vagina later in life. And if the birthing process is important to establish the vaginal microbiome, what happens in the case of C-sections? “We have more questions than answers,” Forney said.

The microbiome is also not stable later in life. It is now well known that the vaginal microbiome changes after menopause, containing fewer Lactobacillus than the vaginas of reproductive-aged women, with the notable exception of women on hormone-replacement therapies.

Moreover, recent research has revealed that the composition of the vaginal microbiome can change in as little as 24 hours.

The temporal dynamics of the vaginal microbiome raise important questions about developing microbiota-based diagnostics and therapeutics, said Forney. “If you perform a diagnostic test, would you get a different result tomorrow or the day after? In some cases, yes. How do you incorporate that into [a] decision about whether some kind of intervention is required?”

Informing pregnant women about environmental health hazards is absolutely necessary, especially because steps can be taken to avoid them (such as pesticides, mercury in fish, lead and BPA). Why isn't it happening routinely? Hey obstetricians - are you listening? From Huffington Post:

Doctors Fail To Counsel Pregnant Women On Toxic Chemical Risks

...dozens of environmental chemicals can course through a pregnant woman's body, cross the umbilical cord and wreck havoc on a developing fetus. Birth defects, IQ losses and childhood cancers are just some of the potential risks scientists have now tied to even low levels of exposure.

Among more than 2,500 doctors consulted for the survey, nearly all of them reported counseling patients on factors such as diet, exercise and cigarette smoking. However, only about 20 percent said they addressed environmental exposures. They pegged their hesitation to a number of factors, from the fear of overwhelming patients with anxiety-inducing worries to limited appointment time to a lack of environmental health education.

Just one in 15 doctors said they had received training on the harmful reproductive effects of toxic chemicals. "Medical school and residencies tend to frame their curriculum around the boards and required licensing exams," said Stotland. "This material is not yet on those tests." ... The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a statement in October that underscored mounting evidence of "significant and long-lasting effects" caused by industrial chemicals, and emphasized doctors' role in protecting pregnant women.

The actual study from Plos One summed up the importance of knowing about exposures to environmental hazards during pregnancy very nicely in the introduction:

Counseling Patients on Preventing Prenatal Environmental Exposures - A Mixed-Methods Study of Obstetricians

Exposure to hazardous environmental chemicals, i.e., manufactured chemicals and metals, is linked to adverse health outcomes across all stages of the human life cycle including fertility, conception, pregnancy, child and adolescent development, and adult health [1][5]. Human exposure to environmental chemicals is ubiquitous. A population-based study found that virtually all pregnant women in the U.S. had measureable levels of at least 43 different environmental chemicals in their bodies, including chemicals that were measured at levels similar to those associated with adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes in epidemiologic studies [6]. There are currently over 80,000 chemicals in commerce [7][8], and exposure occurs through air, water, food and consumer products in the home and workplace. The majority of industrial chemicals have not been tested for potential reproductive/developmental harm [9].

Obstetricians are uniquely positioned to help prevent exposures to environmental chemicals with adverse developmental and reproductive health effects [2]. Pregnancy is a time when exposure to environmental contaminants can disrupt or interfere with the physiology of a cell, tissue, or organ [4], leading to permanent and lifelong adverse health outcomes that may be passed down to future generations [10]. Pregnancy is also an opportune time to prevent harmful exposures as it is a period when patient interest about health can be extremely high.