Avoiding Risky Chemicals During IVF

After deciding to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant, women typically want to do everything possible to increase the chances of success. Switching to a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, and working out consistently are known changes that many IVF patients are ready to embrace, but what about chemicals? Endocrine disruptors can be found in everything from food to personal care products. Avoiding such a widespread class of chemicals isn’t always easy, but swapping out for safer choices can improve IVF success rates.


What are endocrine disruptors?

Many people have heard of endocrine disruptors, but what chemicals fall into this class? Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are man-made or naturally occurring chemicals capable of mimicking or interfering with the body’s endocrine system, or hormones. More than 1,000 EDCs are thought to exist. Bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins, phthalates, triclosan, atrazine, Phytoestrogens, and parabens are a few examples. People can be exposed to EDCs via diet, air, water, or touch. Although some exposure to endocrine disruptors is almost unavoidable, when EDCs build up in the body, hormones can be skewed, and fertility can be negatively impacted. Here are 3 of the worst offenders for women undergoing fertility treatment.

1. Avoid BPA

Used primarily for the production of plastics, bisphenol A is found in water bottles, canned food, eyewear, to-go containers, and bottle tops. When BPA is found in food packaging, the chemical can leech into the food and be consumed, especially when the plastic is heated. Since BPA mimics estrogen, the chemical can promote inflammation and cause cell damage. In terms of fertility, this means men may see diminished sperm quality while women may have fewer healthy eggs available to implant into the uterus.

2. Get rid of parabens

Personal care products, including moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, shaving creams, sunscreens, and deodorants, commonly contain parabens. The role of the chemical is to preserve the product’s shelf life by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria and mold.
Studies show that when parabens build up in the body, fertility is negatively affected, with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and decreased sperm count most reported.

3. Steer clear of phthalates

Found in hundreds of products, from vinyl flooring to plastic packaging, phthalates are another chemical that can be difficult to avoid. Personal care products, including nail polish, hair sprays, face wash, soap, and shampoo, can also contain this notorious EDC. Used primarily to soften or make a product more flexible, phthalates are widespread. For people trying to get pregnant, the chemical can be a concern. Phthalates have been shown to disrupt follicle growth patterns, increase oxidative stress, and cause follicle death, seriously impacting fertility.

What’s a mom-to-be to do?

With EDCs so prevalent in society, removing every product known to contain such chemicals can feel overwhelming. Instead, start by making small changes. Look at personal care products that are used daily and make the switch to natural EDC-free alternatives. Avoid plastic food packing as much as possible, and remove any food that requires re-heating before putting the meal into the microwave. Opt for glass cups instead of plastic water bottles. Although completely avoiding endocrine-disrupting chemicals is difficult, small changes can add up to reduce the amount of EDCs entering the body. With natural hormones in the body free of outside influence, improved fertility is possible.

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