When you begin to think about a pregnancy and having a child of your own, you can envision every detail of the pregnancy and childbirth perfectly. You picture yourself folding tiny clothes, start to pick out names, and you can almost feel those first kicks inside your growing belly.
Rarely do these daydreams involve difficulties getting pregnant, but unfortunately, that is the reality faced by millions of couples worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12 out of every 100 couples in the United States experience difficulty getting pregnant.
Knowing that infertility is not uncommon, many women hoping to get pregnant begin to adopt healthier habits in anticipation of conceiving. This includes eating more wholesome foods, drinking more water, exercising more frequently, and even taking supplements. In many cases however, environmental factors impact the ability to become pregnant.
Over the past several decades, research has increasingly shown certain environmental toxins – many of the same materials that make our lives convenient today, are detrimental to pregnancy and fertility. The specific types of toxins that appear to have the biggest effect on fertility are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They can be found in workplaces and homes, outdoors in the open air, and even in the foods we eat and personal care products we use.
EDCs and POPs
Both EDCs, also called hormone disrupters, and POPs, interfere with hormone function in the body. They include many different synthetic chemicals that are typically used as industrial lubricants and solvents, as well as pesticides. Their byproducts are toxic and include some well-known substances such as the plastic bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and the pharmaceutical agent diethylstilbestrol (DES).
These toxins can affect sperm quality and quantity, create hormone imbalances, impair egg production, and even cause repeat miscarriages. Essentially, because they affect the body’s hormone regulation, POPs and EDCs have the ability to inhibit fertility altogether.
The Unknown and Pregnancy
There are a number of factors that make it challenging to know exactly which substances are potentially harmful in terms of fertility, as well as whether there is a safe exposure level or window of time. For one thing, there is very little data on trace amounts of POPs and EDCs; historically, studies that have been conducted have focused on what level of a single large quantity could be dangerous.
Another significant challenge is that you won’t find many of these names listed on product labels, primarily because they’re often a byproduct of another substance. In some instances, the toxin may not be a product ingredient, but be lurking in the packaging. The good news is that modern science and technology have made us aware of some of the worst toxins we should avoid completely.
- Parabens – Widely used as an antibacterial preservative in cosmetics and other personal care products, parabens are linked to a number of health problems, including certain types of cancer. Avoiding them is simple; just read labels and choose paraben-free products.
- Pesticides – We are most frequently exposed to pesticides in pest-control products and fresh produce. Select non-toxic products when possible and thoroughly rinse your produce once you get it home. There’s no need to even use soap as you can gently scrub it under running water.
- Phthalates – These are most often found in consumer plastics, such as those used to make food storage containers and toys. Opt for natural materials such as wood, stainless steel, or glass when possible. When using plastic is unavoidable, look for items labeled phthalate- or PVC-free and never heat plastic containers.
A number of factors affect fertility and it’s nearly impossible to point to any one of them as a cause of infertility. However, avoiding harmful environmental toxins is one simple step you can take if you plan to try to get pregnant.
If you’re experiencing difficulty getting pregnant, we invite you to schedule a fertility consultation with Viera Fertility clinic in Melbourne, FL. At your consultation, you’ll meet a fertility specialist who can advise you on the best course of action in determining whether or not there is a fertility issue and the next steps for achieving pregnancy. Give us a call at (321) 751-4673 or contact us online today. We look forward to meeting you.