5 Everyday activities that can harm your fertility
How to make yourself more fertile: Your reproductive health can be improved by avoiding some very common things.
Your morning coffee may seem innocent enough, unless you’re trying to fall pregnant. Do you enjoy microwave popcorn while watching a movie? How about reheated Chinese takeaway? The food itself isn’t the problem, the problem could be lurking inside the packaging.
With more and more couples waiting until later in life to start a family, on average one in six of them will require medical assistance.
About 40 percent will be due to a complication with the female and 40 percent due to problems on the male side. But, 20-30 percent of couples will be told they have ‘unexplained infertility’. Perhaps, a group of chemicals in our lives, known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) could be the cause.
"Everyday chemicals affect hormones"
Dr Mark Green, lecturer in Reproductive Biology at The University of Melbourne, has studied how the everyday chemicals in our life affect our hormones. The endocrine system plays a major role in regulating our reproductive system, through the release of hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone.
However, many chemicals found in pesticides, herbicides, fabrics, packaging and particularly plastics have made it into our body.
“Everyone in society will have the majority of these (chemicals) in their bloodstream at a level we know will have some effect on the body. That’s part of the problem, there seems to be this creeping epidemic over the last 50-60 years when we’ve really revolutionised our plastics,” says Dr Green, “unfortunately they are now at levels we need to be a bit more mindful of.”
The chemicals BPA (Bisphenol A), phthalates and parabens disrupt our endocrine system many different ways. They can either bind to where the hormone would usually bind, or they interfere with the production of the hormone.
They can also block the normal hormone or mimic the effects. The whole body can be affected by these chemicals, but if you’re trying to fall pregnant, they can make it a lot harder to do so.
How to make yourself more fertile: Simple lifestyle changes
“You could never remove yourself from all of these even if you lived up a glass mountain in a bubble,” says Dr Green, but luckily it isn’t all doom and gloom. With some simple lifestyle changes, we can reduce our exposure and increase our chances of conception.
Take away foods should never be reheated in their plastic box, rather place the food in a ceramic bowl and cover the food with a paper towel.
The plastic can leach into the food we are eating. The lining of disposable coffee cups, pizza box lining and microwave popcorn bags also have EDC that can leach into our food.
Never leave your plastic disposable water bottle in the sun before drinking out of it.
Hard glass or tinned bottles are the best to drink out of. Canned food and prepackaged processed foods also have plastics on the inside of the containers that leach into the food. Instead, buy fresh fruit and vegetables and give them a good wash to remove any pesticides or herbicides.
Say ‘no thanks’ to those sales receipts, as they are coated in BPA.
If you touch the shiny surface with wet hands, this EDC can leach straight into your bloodstream.
Avoid inhaling new chemicals.
The ‘new car’ smell may be nice, but if you can smell those new chemicals, you are inhaling them straight into your body. If you buy a new couch or carpet, open a window and ventilate the house. These chemicals are often flame retardants which are difficult to remove from your body.
Look for ‘Paraben free’ products
You don’t need to be a chemist when avoiding these products. Look for ‘Paraben free’ on personal care products such as shampoos and conditioners and ‘Green’ for cleaning products.
By making these changes, the majority of these chemicals can be out of our system in a couple of months, however there are some chemicals we just have to live with.
Dr Green says, “It’s not a cheery subject. Unfortunately, it’s like one of those big ones like global warming, what can I do about it? But there are still little things you can do especially for people who are trying to conceive. It's important also for anyone looking after their health. It’s just little quick fixes you can do to help yourself out”.
Lifestyle changes to aid conception
Here's a quick rundown of the above points on ways to reduce your exposure and increase your chances of conception:
- Place food in a ceramic bowl and cover with a paper towel instead of reheating in plastic.
- Never leave plastic disposable water bottles in the sun before use.
- Say ‘no thanks’ to those sales receipts.
- Avoid inhaling new chemicals in cars, carpets, etc.
- Look for ‘Paraben free’ products.