Could your home be harboring chemical residues or other types of pollution that could be keeping you from getting pregnant?
Discover what you need to know to turn your home into a baby nest!
By Colete Bouchez
We all like to think of our homes as not just our castle, but our "nest" - our shelter from the storm where we can relax, unwind and feel safe and secure.
When we're planning a pregnancy, all these things take on an even greater meaning , as we strive to "feather our nest" in a decidedly baby-friendly way.
But did if you're like most couples what you probably don't know is that many of the common products used around the home are not only "baby unfriendly" , but "fertility unfriendly" too? Indeed, from the kitchen to the bathroom, from your bedroom closet to your utility closet from your laundry room to your back yard deck there can be a surprising number of "fertility thiefs" lurking around your castle!
Among the most potentially destructive: Chemicals found in products such as carpet cleaners, room deodorizers, laundry softeners, mold and mildew cleaners, stain removers, diswashign detergent, drain cleaners, floor waxes, oven cleaners ... the list goes on and on!
Certinly not every product on the market contains potentially harmful ingredients. But many that fall into these and similar categories do. And experts say that because effects are often cumulative, when enough of them are used , eventually body-wide effects are seen - including in the reproductive system.
Indeed, in one study published in the journal Human Reproduction in 2009, doctors found an overwhelming number of women carried harmful levels of dry cleaning chemical residues in their blood - and it was affecting their ability to get pregnant.
"In our study, 75% of the women had concentrations that were associated with a longer waiting time [to pregnancy]," says study researcher Jorn Olsen, MD, PhD, professor and chair of epidemiology at the University of California School of Public Health. Olsen heads the Danish National Birth Cohort at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.
The average "wait time" to get pregnant said the researchers was 12 months - even in women who were otherwise healthy with no fertilty problems.
In another, even more alarming study published in the journal Environmental Perspectives in 2010, doctors from the University of California at Berkely found that women with high blood levels of the flame retardant chemical known as PBDE were much less likely to become pregnant - even when no other reason for their infertility could be found.
"''For every tenfold increase in PBDEs in the blood, we saw a 30% to 50% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant in any given month," study researcher Kim Harley, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health and associate director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health told WebMD.
And while this particularl flame retardant has been banned for use in new products, it's effects are certainly lingering and can still be found in many products still in use including upholstered furniture and carpet padding, with massive exposures occuring when floor covering is begin ripped up and replaced.
But PBDE is far from the only chemical of concern if you are trying to get pregnant. Indeed, studies on a number of compounds used in many common household products have shown alarming effects on both male and female fertility -with many of these substances having cumulative effects that over time can cause substantial damage to our reproductive health.
Indeed, off gassing from dry cleaning chemicals, formaldehyde and glues used in making pressed wood furniture and found in many acrylic paints, lead in ceramic glazes, stained glass materials or chemicals found in paint thinners, furniture strippers and varnishes can all impact fertility. Add to this the impact of pesticides and fungicides used to treat carpeting and many types of upoholstered furniture and it's easy to see how a toxic brew can be stirring - and that's just in one area of the home!
"The problem is that once inside the body - through inhalation or sometimes even skin exposures - many of these chemicals head straight for a our fat cells, where they bunker down and remain for a long period of time, " says fertility expert Dr. Niels Lauersen author of the best selling book "Getting Pregnant: What You Need To Know Now.
As more exposures occur, says Lauersen, more chemicals invade the fat cells until our body becomes a virtual repository of toxic brews. The end result impacts our health in many ways - and fertility is one of them.
How Chemicals Affect Our Fertility
While not every chemical exposure is going to upset your fertility and no one exposure is going to do you any long term damage. But experts say that over time cumulative effects can take their toll on our reproductive health. What happens when they do?
"In women these chemical exposures can disrupt the menstrual cycle, cause problems with ovulation, throw reproductive hormones off balance ; in men it can impact sperm production, causing fewer healthy sperm to be made, and fewer sperm to made overall," says Lauersen.
The end result, he says is that even in couples who are otherwise healthy, a low level malfunction in both partners adds up to infertility.
" A woman may have irregular ovulation, her partner may have a slightly lower sperm count, but when you put them together the odds of getting pregnant are affected significantly," says Lauersen.
At the same time, says Lauersen, reducing exposures to these chemicals can have extremely positive effects - in a relatively short amount of time.
"We're not talking years, we're talking months and sometimes even weeks - that's all it can take for some women to get their ovulation back on track and for men to start making healthy sperm againg - I have seen many couples who could not conceive for years get pregnant within several months of making just a few lifestyle changes - including reducing these chemical exposures," says Lauersen.
Copyright 2008-2009 -Colette Bouchez. Any and all use requires the author's explicit permission , which may be assigned or revoked at any time, for any reason. . Any unauthorized use of these articles shall be considered a breech of copyright law.