Vail Natural Path: Environmental impacts on fertility
November 9, 2009
We know, without a doubt, that impaired fertility is on the rise. Currently, one out of every six American couples has problems conceiving a child within the first twelve months of trying. Unfortunately, our toxic environment is playing a large role in declining reproductive health. Taking some precautionary measures prior to conception can both enhance fertility and create a healthier pregnancy and baby.
The first question to ask is, “Why is infertility on the rise?”
Our exposure to environmental toxins greatly affects our reproductive health. Environmental toxins affect sperm count, movement, and morphology. Boys born to mothers with a high body burden of toxins can have a lower sperm count and have hypospadias. In women, environmental toxins affect estrogen, progesterone, and ovulation, and can cause endometriosis, fibroids, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. These toxins are everywhere and have a direct effect on glands and organs, metabolism, and production and detoxification of hormones.
The main toxins to avoid, according to the Women’s Reproductive Health Environmental Workshop, are the pesticide DDT, its metabolite DDE, and polychlorinated biphenols, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and cigarette smoke. DDT, DDE and polychlorinated biphenols are all found in ample concentration in conventionally grown produce and used in the animal feed of animals raised for our consumption. In turn, large amounts of these pesticides are found in non-organic meat and dairy products. BPA is used as a hardening agent in plastics, in the lining of canned foods, and as a sealant in dentistry (BPA-free sealants are now on the market and you can encourage your dentist to use these). Cigarette smoke has at least three solvents and three heavy metals which are obviously bad for the user and his or her potential offspring.
Additionally, we have to pay attention to mercury from fish and dental fillings, solvents from nail polish, paints, and adhesives, pesticides in and around our homes, living near agriculture, toxins in hair dyes, and PFCs in mattresses, carpeting, building supplies- they are in virtually everything!
I know, I know, this is a total downer! However, there is hope!
You can test for heavy metal toxicity and solvents and do a complete detoxification prior to trying to conceive. If you have the time and wherewithal to do so, I highly recommend it. Ridding your body of these toxins is really essential to your overall health, whether you are trying to conceive or not. The benefit to doing this prior to conception is that your fetus incorporates any toxins that you have into its own body, and birthing a non-toxic baby, if you will, is definitely desirable, especially given what we now know about what these toxins can do.
If a full blown detoxification isn’t in your future, I recommend that you become aware of the dangers of environmental toxins and then try to avoid them. Here is what you can do:
• Eat organic foods and drink filtered water. A whole house filter is best- you want to shower and bathe in non-toxic water, too.
• Take your shoes off when you enter your house to avoid tracking in pesticides from lawn and trees and lead from the soil.
• Use household plants in every room to help filter toxins from the air, and/or buy a HEPA filter (for home, car, work, travel)
• Use glass instead of plastic storage and condiment containers (salad dressings and ketchup does come in glass!)
• Avoid canned foods. BPA is used in the linings of canned foods except for Amy’s and Eden Organics.
• Use stainless steel or glass water bottles
There are many other ways that you can avoid toxins in the environment, no matter how ubiquitous they seem. The bottom line is that the cleaner your environment and the healthier you make your body, the easier conception will happen for you. Infertility is very frustrating and can be devastating to go through. A thorough evaluation for environmental and other lifestyle factors is important to help you through this and can often reap great rewards.