Environmental Chemicals Pose New Threat to Pregnancy


In the modern world, there is no shortage of obstacles to a woman conceiving, and the health care community is continuously discovering new factors that can impact potential pregnancy. Cigarettes are known to hurt fertility for both sexes while heat from laptops, wearing disposable diapers as a child, and carrying cell-phones in pockets can decrease male fertility. New data gleaned from a study completed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found one more threat to fertility to add to the list, chemicals in the environment. The chemicals include, but are not limited to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and are found in meat, fish and dairy products. The study is the most recent in a series of new efforts to incorporate male fertility in studies of couples’ chances of pregnancy. It is also unique in that it followed couples prior to pregnancy, rather than collecting reflections of attempts to conceive after the fact.

It followed 501 couples across 16 countries, with a large concentration of participants in Texas and Michigan, who were in the process of trying to conceive. Researchers collected data from the first date when couples stopped using contraception until the date of pregnancy or one year after the couple entered the study if they had not successfully conceived. It found 4 chemicals in woman and 9 chemicals in men, through analysis of blood and urine samples, that are linked to lengthening the time needed to successfully conceive. When these chemicals were present, an association emerged with a 20 percent reduction in likelihood of attaining pregnancy with each menstrual cycle, a similar percentage reduction in fertility that a smoker would experience. Experts say that it is almost impossible to completely avoid exposure to these chemicals, but are heartened by Centers for Disease Control reports that levels of these chemicals in the environment are decreasing. Instead of focusing on preventing exposure, potential parents should focus on what they can do to minimize further intake, such as avoiding fat on meat and fish, and adopting behaviors that enhance fertility. These enhancements can help to counteract negative effects of chemicals and maximize chances of conceiving, including timing intercourse, cutting out cigarettes, exercising, and decreasing overall fat and dairy intake.

Source and image courtesy of The Daily Beast.

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