Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in everyday products like shampoo, toothpaste, and even fertility lubricant. This guide reviews the latest data on the safety of parabens and why you may want to avoid them while trying to conceive (TTC) or pregnant.
By Halle Tecco
What are parabens?
Parabens are a family of chemicals commonly used as preservatives in consumer products to increase shelf life and stability. Companies use parabens because they are one way to help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. While widely used for decades, parabens have become more controversial as emerging research shows potentially negative health impacts of parabens. In fact, research is so compelling that parabens are now a banned ingredient in Europe and now California.
Should you avoid parabens when TTC or pregnant?
Parabens are potential endocrine disruptors—chemicals that can interfere with your endocrine system. When inside the body, parabens can mimic estrogen. Research has connected parabens with several health issues, including fertility consequences, although findings across studies are less consistent.
- Preliminary evidence from a study conducted at Harvard University linked high paraben build up in the body with reduced fertility.
- Parabens may cause fertility abnormalities in men too.
- Several studies have shown that parabens can affect the mechanisms of normal breast cells and potentially influence their abnormal growth, leading to increased risk for breast cancer.
- Paraben exposure during pregnancy may contribute to childhood obesity and gestational diabetes.
- Applying personal care products containing parabens can lead to UV-induced damage of skin cells and disruption of cell proliferation.
- Parabens have been significantly associated with allergic sensitization.
- Parabens may be associated with altered thyroid hormone levels.
If you are trying to conceive or pregnant, it is recommended to avoid parabens as much as possible. Pregnant women, fetuses, and young children are most vulnerable to parabens.
What products contain parabens?
Parabens are pervasive in the United States. For decades, parabens have been used in deodorants, toothpastes, shampoos, nail polish, conditioners, body lotions, makeup, and fertility lubricant.
In 2006, CDC scientists measured parabens in the urine of 2,548 Americans. They found parabens in the urine of most of the people tested, indicating widespread exposure. Levels of methylparaben were disproportionately high in people under 60 and Black women. In fact, women had several-fold higher concentrations of parabens than men, likely due to great use of beauty and self-care products.
What ingredients to look out for
If you want to reduce your exposure to parabens, look for products labeled “paraben-free.” Or, scan the ingredient list and look for words that end with "paraben:"
Why Natalist does not use parabens in any of its products
Even though the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of parabens, they are a banned ingredient in Europe and now California. While the research is still emerging and controversial, we find it compelling enough to find and create formulas that don’t include parabens or other endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Not only are parabens potentially harmful to your fertility and overall health, parabens are also linked to ecological harm. As part of our Mother Earth initiative, we are committed to making products that are good for mothers—and Mother Earth.