We are exposed to toxins almost every day of our lives. Over time it is possible for these toxins to build up and cause stress to our reproductive organs and lower the quality of the DNA we pass onto our children. At its worst this can result in miscarriage, low birth weight and pregnancy complications. Research is now finding toxin exposure to the parent prior to conception can also impact the health and fertility levels of your children.
Types of toxins and how to avoid them
Phthalates are found in toys, cosmetics, perfumes, and food packaging and can enter the body via ingestion, skin exposure and inhalation of polluted air. Phthalates can delay ovulation and mess with our hormones (Hatch et al. 2008, p.27).
BPA – Bisphenol A is found in water bottles, the inner coating of tins, and milk containers. BPA binds to oestrogen receptors and increases oestrogen activity that can lead to oestrogen dominant conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Exposure to BPA is associated with implantation failure in women undergoing IVF treatments (Ehrlich et al. 2012, p. 978).
Heavy metal exposure
Elevated levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, cobalt, chromium and boron all have negative effects on the male and female reproductive systems which can lead to increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and reduced fertility (Mendiola et al. 2011, p. 7). A simple hair or urinary analysis can assess the levels of metal toxicity within your body.
Mobile phones carried in trouser pockets can affect the ovaries and testes, with one study showing up to 30% reduction in sperm count and quality. Keep your phone out of your pants and use your laptop on a table, not your lap (Falzone et al. 2011, p.20).
Sperm morphology (shape) and increased miscarriage rates have been linked to lower body x-rays, so get all x-rays done at least 120 days before you try to conceive.
Cosmic radiation – we are exposed to this when flying. A seven hour flight is the equivalent to one chest x-ray, so its best to avoid long haul flights during preconception and the early stages of pregnancy (Natural health techniques 2014).
If you or your partner work, or have worked, in any of the following industries it is advisable to do a guided detox with a qualified practitioner prior to conceiving to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
Flight attendant / pilot
Ideally we should consider what exposure is in our power to limit, such as eating fresh organic foods, avoiding packaged foods, drinking filtered or spring water, avoiding bottled and tap water, using organic skin care, organic makeup, natural cleaning products and engaging in regular exercise.
When doing a preconception care plan with a naturopath, detoxification is generally discussed especially when assessing your previous toxin exposure. If you are concerned your health may not be at its optimum book in to see your naturopath.
Ehrlich, S, Williams, P, Missmer, S, Flaws, J, Berry, K, Calafat, A, Xiaoyun, Y, Petrozza, J, Wright, D, & Hauser, R 2012, 'Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations and Implantation Failure among Women Undergoing in Vitro Fertilization', Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, 7, pp. 978-983, CINAHL Plus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 26 August 2014.
Falzone, N, Huyser, C, Becker, P, Leszczynski, D, & Franken, D 2011, 'The effect of pulsed 900-MHz GSM mobile phone radiation on the acrosome reaction, head morphometry and zona binding of human spermatozoa', International Journal Of Andrology, 34, 1, pp. 20-26, MEDLINE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 26 August 2014.
Hatch E, Nelson J, Qureshi M 2008, Environmental Health, 7, pp. 27-41, viewed 26 August 2014 Mendiola, J, Moreno, J, Roca, M, Vergara-Juárez, N, Martínez-García, M, García-Sánchez, A, Elvira-Rendueles, B, Moreno-Grau, S, López-Espín, J, Ten, J, Bernabeu, R, & Torres-Cantero, A 2011, 'Relationships between heavy metal concentrations in three different body fluids and male reproductive parameters: a pilot study', Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 10, 1, pp. 6-12, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 26 August 2014.
Cassandra is a naturopath and personal trainer committed to inspiring and educating the community on all aspects of health, wellness, nutrition and herbal medicine. She operates her own clinic in Perth, which has a special focus on women's health, fertility and public education.
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