Toxins & Fertility: How to Avoid Chemicals
That Cause Female Infertility

Written & Edited by: Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA & Dr. Ashley Eskew MD, MSCI

Last updated: July 20th, 2021

Spoonful of toxic chemicals entering a woman's mouth

Pro-fertility diet  ✔

Regular exercise 

Mindfulness practice 

Your fertility optimization plan is starting to come together! 

But what about environmental toxins ???

Every day we are exposed to toxic chemicals in our environment, from the food we eat to the personal care products that we use. And although every woman has built-in detoxification systems to help neutralize these threats, we are often exposed to toxins at a rate that exceeds our body’s ability to clear them. 

One of the most troubling things about environmental toxins is that we often don’t recognize their impact on the body until serious issues arise – like infertility. 

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll discover:

What Are Environmental Toxins?

Generally speaking, a toxin is a poisonous chemical substance that can negatively interrupt our normal biological functions and lead to disease. 

Environmental toxins are a group of human-made chemicals – as well as naturally occurring compounds – that we are exposed to, either directly or indirectly, over the course of our day-to-day lives. 

Naturally occurring environmental toxins include things such as:

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Human-made chemical toxins include:

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In large doses, environmental toxins are well known to negatively affect human health, resulting in anything from developmental issues to organ failure or even death. In smaller doses, the impact of environmental toxins may not be immediately noticeable but can contribute to life-altering conditions such as birth defects, cancer, or infertility.

Factors Increasing the Potential Risk of Toxins

Susceptibility to environmental toxins varies from person to person and can be affected by a variety of factors. Some of the most important factors determining the impact of environmental toxins on the body include: 

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    Liver and kidney health 

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    Body fat

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    Immune system capacity 

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    Microbiome composition

The Top 3 Environmental Toxins Threatening Your Fertility

To review the list of all the potential environmental toxins that affect our reproductive system would be quite long, and well beyond even our nerdy attention spans. 

Instead, there are 3 categories of environmental toxins we suggest focusing your attention on given their impact on women’s reproductive health. And over the course of the next several posts, we will discuss the following toxins:

  1. Heavy metals:

    Just because they are naturally occurring, doesn’t mean they are harmless to your fertility… And beyond their impact on egg health, too much of a given heavy metal in your body can cause a wide range of health disorders. There are 3 heavy metals that are linked to infertility that we’ll dive into deeper in another post.

  2. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals:

    From plastic food containers to your cosmetics, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCS) can cause all sorts of problems when it comes to your fertility, most notably interfering with many of your important sex hormones (e.g., estrogen ). Bisphenol-A (BPA) receives most of the attention, but there are 2 other major endocrine disruptors to know about. 

  3. Pesticides:

    A quick search on PubMed and you’ll find all sorts of concerning statistics about pesticides that don’t make it to the news. Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom and there are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to pesticides to very low levels.

Everyday Strategies to Reduce Toxin Exposure

To truly limit your exposure to environmental toxins that can threaten fertility, you need to have a deeper understanding of how we are exposed to each of these toxins in the first place. 

However, before we dive into all the science over the posts to come, we thought it best to give you a few everyday strategies to reduce your toxin exposure.

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    Use non-toxic personal care products: 

    Many of your favorite everyday products likely contain a wide variety of chemicals that can harm fertility – luckily safer options are available.  Searching for products that are BPA-free or don’t contain phthalates or parabens is a great start.

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    Mop and dust regularly:

    Dr. Haas hates dusting but has gotten on board with this necessary household chore after learning that toxic chemicals like lead, flame retardants, solvents, and pesticides are present in household dust. Don’t let those dusty bunnies build up.

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    Clean with non-toxic chemicals:

    Just like those personal care products, cleaning products are packed with several chemicals that are linked to female infertility. There are many effective yet safe products on the market as well as a number of natural cleaners courtesy of mother nature.

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    Remove your shoes outside:

    Your fancy footwear (and comfy sneakers too) are serious carriers of toxins into your home. Kick them off and lounge around in your slippers.

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    Limit foods high in saturated animal fat:

    Certain toxic chemicals build up in animal fat more than others and are introduced into our bodies when we eat them. Yet another reason to give plant-based proteins a try (check out our post on proteins for more reasons why you should eat plant protein while TTC).

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    Avoid pesticides and herbicides:

    No one would willingly drink a bottle of weed killer, but their residues are found on many foods. Whenever possible, eat organic food, and always wash your produce. If organic is not realistic, choose fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residue (the topic of our final blog in the environmental toxins mini-series on our site).

These are just some general actions to start implementing today. Make sure to check out more detailed actions related to specific toxins in our other posts.

Final Thoughts

When they are first brought to your attention, the topic of environmental chemicals can be quite scary. They still frighten us after working to minimize them from our lives. 

With that said, they need not keep you up at night worrying when you’re trying to get pregnant. The most important thing is to educate yourself on common sources and work to limit them. 

SPOILER ALERT: Limiting your exposure is much more practical (while still being hugely beneficial for reproductive health) than trying to completely eliminate your contact with every environmental toxin possible. 

Let’s get smart about our exposure to environmental toxins together!

With Love & Empowerment,
Dr. Ashley Eskew and Dr. Will Haas

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our individual posts about each of the top 3 environmental toxins threatening your fertility.

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