Chemical exposure and miscarriage

Exposure to certain chemicals on a regular basis during pregnancy has been linked to increased rates of miscarriage.1

The use of the medicine isotretinoin (such as Accutane) for the treatment of acne during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and to cause birth defects.2, 3

Chemicals that may increase a woman's chance of having a miscarriage include:

  • Medicines. Before conceiving, or as soon as you become aware that you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you have been taking.
  • Tetrachloroethylene (used in dry cleaning).2
  • Arsenic, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, and ethylene oxide.1
  • Alcohol consumption, which can also cause birth defects and mental retardation. There is no known safe amount of alcohol intake during pregnancy. The safest course is to avoid alcohol entirely while you are pregnant.
  • Cocaine.


  1. Cunningham FG, et al. (2005). Abortion. In Williams Obstetrics, 22nd ed., pp. 231–251. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Speroff L, Fritz MA (2005). Recurrent early pregnancy loss. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 7th ed., pp. 1069–1101. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  3. Briggs GG, et al. (2005). Isotretinoin. In A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk: Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation, 7th ed., pp. 862–866. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: May 7, 2009

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