If you're anything like me, then you're doing absolutely everything you can to improve your chances of getting pregnant. So let’s talk about an important piece of the fertility puzzle — your exposure to environmental toxins, plastics, pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals.
What does science say about toxins and fertility?
Unfortunately, research shows that metals and chemicals in the air, our water, our food, and our health and beauty products can damage our fertility. These toxins can decrease men's sperm count and function. Exposure to toxins may cause women to suffer from anovulation (not ovulating), impaired implantation, and loss of fetal viability.
That all sounds pretty scary if you're trying to get pregnant.
So what chemicals are we talking about? And where exactly are they entering our lives?
Numerous studies show that BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates — commonly found in packaging, cosmetics, toys, plastic bottles and cans — disrupt the endocrine system. That means they have a negative effect on the normal functioning of our precious reproductive hormones.
Scientists refer to these types of chemicals as EDCs, aka endocrine disrupting chemicals, and you can see a list of common endocrine disruptors here.
Basically, EDCs mimic our hormones, sending false signals to the rest of our body. These false estrogen signals can impact the proper functioning of our reproductive system.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals also increase oxidative stress on cells. All of the cells in our body need a balance of antioxidants and pro-oxidants. When pro-oxidants are higher, the oxidation of the cells leads to faster aging and lower quality, i.e. reduced sperm and egg quality.
Okay, all of this is pretty disturbing. But there's good news: you can reduce the toxin load in your body.
How to limit exposure to toxins while trying to get pregnant
As they say, knowledge is power.
If you know what chemicals can do to your fertile body and which chemicals to avoid, then you can begin making the initial investments and changes in thinking to limit your exposure.
While our bodies are able to detoxify on their own through the liver, environmental toxins are constantly affecting us through what we eat, breathe and put onto our bodies. And, as we saw above, this overload of toxins can inhibit the body's ability to get and stay pregnant.
So here are nine things you can eliminate or reduce to help improve your chances of conceiving.
Fragrances (including those in other products) typically include phthalates. If you can't imagine going without your daily spritz, spray it on your clothes instead of directly onto your skin.
Many plastic containers (think single-use water bottles, food containers, plastic wrap) contain BPA and phthalates. Heating these plastics can increase leaching of EDCs.
Opt for BPA-free containers instead. You can find BPA-free plastic containers online and in many health stores. You can also choose glass or stainless steel containers if you want to avoid plastic altogether.
Some research suggests that increased exposure to aluminum among men is impacting sperm counts. If you're a regular aluminum foil user, try switching to parchment paper.
Household cleaning products
No, I'm not saying it's time to stop cleaning the house (if only). Household cleaners often have fragrances and solvents with EDCs. Look for unscented products that are made without petroleum-based ingredients.
Some good choices are Meyer's, Ecover, and Seventh Generation.
Synthetic personal care items
Many personal care items like lotion, shampoos, and beauty products contain BPA and other EDCs.
Choose brands that are free of parabens, phthalates, and BPA. A few I like are Jason's, Weleda, Alba, C & The Moon, and Glo Skin Beauty.
Old teflon cookware
Older teflon pans may contain uncoated aluminum (which could impact male sperm counts).
Invest in non-toxic pans. If you can't afford a whole new set, a simple stainless steel pan and pot can cover a lot of ground in the kitchen.
Non-organic vegetables, fruit, and meat
Research shows that pesticides in food can reduce female fertility.
Shop for organic and pesticide/chemical-free items. If increasing your grocery budget is challenging, try to focus on those items that are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. You can find these on the Dirty Dozen list.
Unfortunately, groundwater and drinking water supplies are being impacted by all the chemicals being flushed down our toilets and washed down our drains. Scientists aren't quite sure how humans will fair, but fish fertility is already changing.
Switch to filtered water by using a filtering pitcher or installing a filter on your faucet.
Bonus: choose antioxidants
Here's one thing you can add to your life. Antioxidants help counterbalance the oxidative stress from EDCs. Eat lots of berries, beets, spinach, and kale. You an also take Vitamin C and CoQ10.
Whew. That was a lot.
When I learned about EDCs during my fertility journey, I felt completely overwhelmed. I have to throw away all my cleaning products and my shampoo???
My advice to you is this: Progress, not perfection.
Change one small thing at a time. Your body will thank you.
All of these steps improve both female and male fertility, so if you have a partner, get them on board!
Plus, starting today is a smart step you can take for your future family’s health and the planet.
I am a Fertility Coach helping professional women like you increase your chances to get pregnant with less anxiety and more joy along the way. My Full-Circle Method is a holistic blend of solution-oriented coaching, powerful mind-body-connection techniques and a practical step-by-step guide addressing mindset, lifestyle and tactics along your fertility journey.
I’m a 4 time IVF warrior, a yoga teacher and a working mom with an MBA and 15 years of corporate experience under my belt. My own challenging journey to motherhood has made me passionate about helping you with yours.
I’m German native, but a global citizen at heart. I’ve lived and worked all over the world (Germany, US, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, UK), and now reside in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with my husband, daughter and red Labrador Retriever. I love re-watching Friends and never say No to chocolate. Have I mentioned chocolate?