A few years ago I noticed a lot of cancer being diagnosed in the ER. Then when I transitioned to working in the surgical recovery room, I was astonished by the number or cancer related procedures we did on a daily basis. This was just the beginning of sparking my concern for what is happening to the health of Americans. This prompted me to start personally investigating our diet, environmental factors, and specifically the products we use and how they could be actually causing a lot of the health concerns we are currently facing. In particular there has been a huge connection to Environmental toxin exposure, PCOS and infertility in women.
I recently came across a horrifying instagram post about how in 2043 almost 50% of couples will need some form of assistance to become pregnant. If you or anyone you know has gone through IUI or IVF they will tell you it’s not easy mentally, emotionally, or physically. It can also be a huge financial burden. You may already be experiencing this or like me you may be concerned about the future for your children and their ability to start families of their own.
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How Are Environmental Toxins Affecting Infertility?
Current research shows that fertility is declining worldwide. Currently 1 in 7 couples in North America are having serious difficulty conceiving. This number is likely to continue to decline if changes are not made. One of the most significant reasons for this decline is related to Environmental toxin load in both men and women. These toxins affect our bodies in four ways:
Synthetic chemicals such as phthalates have a significant amount of research that confirms they cause hormone disruption leading to complications such as PCOS and infertility. They can affect how hormones are produced, are eliminated, or bind in the body. This significantly impairs the reproductive system as so many actions are regulated by hormones. Phthalates are found in so many products from plastics to cosmetics. Phthalates have been found in the urine of nearly every American as well as their blood, sweat, breast milk, semen, and ovarian fluids. Endocrine disruptors are prolific in our environment and can easily escape the products we use as vapors or particles. We consume them in our drugs (they coat our medications) and put them on our skin (lotions, shampoo, makeup).
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – plastics and storage containers
- Dioxins – some manufacturing processes produce them or they can be released when certain substances burn
- Phthalates – plastics
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – found in many products around your home such as transformers and lubricants
- Triclosan – often used in soap and hand sanitizers this is still used in other products designed to kill bacteria.
Damage to Female Reproductive System
These endocrine disrupting chemicals can lead to a lot of issues including PCOS and infertility. Women with PCOS have much lower fertility and have higher risks when becoming pregnant. Their risk increases for gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, preeclampsia, preterm birth, or their babies needing admission to the NICU. High chemical loads are not only not good for conceiving naturally but also decreases your likelihood for success with IVF.
In a 2018 study, they found that phthalate exposure lead to poorer egg quality and embryo quality in women that were currently undergoing IVF treatments. We still do not have all the answers about what these chemicals do to women and their reproductive health. There is more research that needs to be done, but there are animal studies that suggest they could be causing reproductive changes that can affect generations.
Damage to Male Reproductive System
Research suggests that these toxic environmental exposures are leading to poor sperm counts, an impairment in sperm motility, the concentration of sperm, and morphology of sperm (DNA damage). There has also been evidence that suggests damage to the reproductive organs including testis. These chemicals can accumulate in reproductive organs and can lead to lower testosterone levels and daily sperm production.
Impaired Fetal Viability
The exposure of environmental toxins of the father and mother can negatively affect the growth and development of the fetus. Some of the negative effects we see are: growth restriction, functional abnormalities, structural abnormalities, preterm delivery, and miscarriage.
How To Start Reducing Your Toxic Load
- Buy organic when you can or wash your produce well!
- Buy simple foods- meaning those that are less processed and have minimum packaging
- Wash your hands often – choose the simplest soap you can find.
- Avoid plastics. Use glass or stainless steel.
- Keep Your home clean – frequent vacuuming, dusting with a damp cloth, and use and change air filters often.
- Choose Basic Cleaners – DIY or choose clean products.
- Choose personal care products carefully and review ingredients. Avoid any products that includes fragrance (this can contain all sorts of chemicals that they do not have to disclose) in the ingredients list.
Tips For Success
This can be very overwhelming. I get it. I have been there. It starts with little choices everyday. Don’t feel like you have to make a change instantly. It can be as simple as buying a new product the next time you run out. That one small change over and over again is more likely to stick than trying to overhaul your life in one day.
Don’t let this information overwhelm you. Use this knowledge to empower your decisions to make a healthier future for yourself and your family. Things like PCOS and infertility can possibly improve with lifestyle change. Look at your current lifestyle and find one thing you can change this week to decrease your toxic load. Keep making those small changes every week and you will be on a positive path to health and fertility!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.