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Unsuspecting Fertility Menaces: Things to Avoid for Fertility Health

December 11, 2012

You may be getting your body baby ready for the New Year, but there are a few unsuspecting culprits that may be compromising your fertility.

In an ongoing, collaborative research effort, Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center and Harvard University have released preliminary data on the effects of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates on fertility. More commonly recognized as compounds in plastic, called plasticizers, BPA and phthalates are used in the lining of tin cans, toys, plastic storage containers, soaps, perfumes, wrinkle guards, and baby bottles. Researchers on the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARtH) study have also linked Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and lead to potential fertility menaces.

John C. Petrozza, M.D., Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, is one of the investigators on this study. “The EARtH study has focused primarily on a handful of environmental factors that may impact fertility. BPA has been shown to diminish sperm quality, eggs, and embryo development. Phthalates, particularly in relation to the IUI population, diminish response to follicular recruitment and ovarian response to gonadotropins”, he says.

So what can you do to avoid these harmful compounds?

  • Go fresh. Avoiding canned foods, like soups and sauces will prevent you from consuming the broken down compounds of BPA and phthalates found in the thin plastic layer that lines the inside of the can.
  • Go glass. Use glass or steel containers for storing and heating food. If you have to use plastic, keep it away from the microwave and hand wash only. Even the heat from the dishwasher can break down harmful plasticizers. Non-stick coating on cookware also releases compounds detrimental to fertility.
  • Go healthy. Taking vitamin supplements and Omega-3s might help offset some of these fertility risks. New data is suggesting that some vitamins, including folic acid and pharmaceutical grade Omega-3s, may repair damage in human cells.

Additionally, Dr. Petrozza recommends avoiding wrinkle guards and using cookware without a ‘non-stick’ coating. “I’m not sure we are close to saying these are why you can’t get pregnant. The data isn’t there”. Existing data on the reproductive risks is not substantial enough to tell us these environmental factors cause infertility. However, data does suggest a relationship between exposure and decline in ovarian reserve and sperm production. More data is slowly surfacing that analyzes the long term reproductive effects of exposure to fertility compromising compounds.


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