Monday 12 July 2021

Understanding Environmental Chemical Exposure During Pregnancy

Image Source: Pixabay

If you're struggling to conceive, you're not alone — infertility may be on the rise. Chemicals in our environment may be impacting the fertility of both men and women as well as the health of a developing fetus. They may be unintentionally ingested or absorbed into the skin harming your health.

How can you avoid these chemicals? First, we must understand how they enter your body.

A guest post by Indiana Lee

What You Need to Know About Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure can occur in many ways. The most obvious are ingesting or inhaling. For example, drinking tap water contaminated with lead can lead to infertility or harm a developing fetus.

What’s less commonly known is that your skin can also absorb substances that disrupt reproduction. How much depends on many factors, including the integrity of your skin, which part of the skin was exposed, duration of exposure, and how much got on your skin.

Repeated exposure to toxic chemicals can accumulate in your body. This can lead to problems in both fertility and pregnancy.

Understanding Fertility

According to the CDC, over 13% of women aged 15 to 49 struggle with this issue. In 2018, PEW Research Center discovered that one-third of U.S. adults used fertility treatments or knew someone who did. They state that fertility rates may be “at an all-time low.”

These rates, however, are tricky to measure, but science does link infertility to health conditions that are on the rise. 

Unpreventable Risk Factors Linked to Infertility

Some health conditions are unavoidable, including those that are genetic. It’s important to get a diagnosis early so you can understand your chances of conceiving a child. 

For women, causes of infertility include:

● Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

● Endometriosis

● Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

● Reproductive or hormonal dysfunction

● Premature ovarian insufficiency external icon, when a woman’s ovaries fail prematurely, usually due to chemo or radiation

● Early menopause or depletion of egg supply

Men also have health conditions that can contribute, including varicoceles, trauma to the testes, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and certain autoimmune and infectious conditions. 

Avoidable Risk Factors

If you’re in good health, though, you can improve your chances of conception by avoiding these preventable risk factors. 

The Role of Diet

Our microbiota consists of the microbes that live in or on our body that live primarily in our gut, but they also exist in the uterus and the vagina. Studies indicate that the microbiota in the gut of a pregnant woman impacts the “immune and metabolic development of the offspring” during both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Research has also shown a link between stillbirths and bacteria. The bacteria that is the likely cause exists in 20-30% of women. The microbiome changes during pregnancy. Those changes may be linked to preterm labor. That means that for women, a healthy microbiota is key for fertility, pregnancy, and delivery. 

Other Lifestyle Factors

Several lifestyle factors can impact male or female fertility. While you can’t change certain conditions, there some lifestyle choices you can change to help:

● Alcohol

● Tobacco usage

● Marijuana or other drugs

● High blood pressure

● Depression, anxiety, or stress

● Exercise (too much or too little)

● Obesity or being too much underweight, for women

Chemicals That Impact Fertility

Harmful chemicals affect both men and women. Some are unavoidable, such as chemotherapy for cancer patients. However, the most common culprits are often avoidable: endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interrupt proper hormonal function and reduce fertility in both men and women:

● BPA in plastic containers and bottles

● Dioxins found in herbicides

● PFAs on nonstick cookware

● Phthalates and parabens are in toiletries and cosmetics

● Flame-retardant coatings

● Triclosan in personal care products

● Phytoestrogen from soy and tofu products

● Perchlorate can found in drinking water

It’s wise to take steps to remove these from your home. Buy safer products and filter your water.

Lingering Environmental Pollutants

While that covers everyday exposure, some outlawed chemicals remain in the environment and continue to damage our reproductive systems. In recent years, lead has been found in tap water and soil. Lead exposure has been linked to reduced fertility in both men and women.

Another example is asbestos, which causes several medical problems, including cancers that can harm maternal health and fetal development. Other pollutants that may affect fertility are PCBs. Outlawed in the 1970s, they do not disintegrate and may harm reproduction.

Healthy Choices That Support Fertility and Pregnancy

Unless you have a medical condition, there are steps you can take to support conception and healthy pregnancy. 

Proper Health Maintenance

Eliminating unhealthy habits such as smoking, vaping, and excessive alcohol are a good start and are even more critical during pregnancy.

It’s also important to maintain proper oral and medical care. Before getting pregnant, both partners should regularly see their healthcare providers ensuring they are healthy enough to prepare for conception.

Getting the right amount of exercise is smart too. Too much or too little can impact fertility. In addition, some women may have to limit their mobility or activity when they are expecting.

Finally, once pregnant, women should visit their obstetrician regularly to ensure the health of the baby.

The Importance of a Healthy Diet

A healthy microbiome is necessary for pregnancy and can help both parents improve their chances of conception. To keep your gut healthy and avoid obesity or diabetes, reduce sugar, processed food, and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

Eat whole foods as much as possible. While pregnant women should consult with their doctor about how much fish is safe to eat, salmon and other fatty fish are a good choice of nutrients. Reduce red meats and eat mostly fresh produce.

Talk to your doctors about the best food choices to keep you healthy and fit. They can recommend supplements and a probiotic if they are necessary.

Chemical exposure can impair your ability to reproduce. However, these simple steps can support your journey to and through pregnancy.

Pharmaceutical Microbiology resources

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources

Special offers