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Beyond the Surface: Endocrine Disruptors and Their Impact on Fertility

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In our modern world, there's a silent threat to fertility lurking in our everyday lives—endocrine disruptors. These sneaky compounds can wreak havoc on our hormonal balance, potentially affecting both male and female fertility. Understanding what endocrine disruptors are, where they're found, and how they affect fertility is crucial for those trying to conceive.

What are Endocrine Disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the body's endocrine (hormonal) system, mimicking or blocking the body's natural hormones. They can be found in various everyday products, including plastics, store receipts, pesticides, personal care products (hello expensive skin and hair products!) and certain foods.

Two of the major endocrine disruptors that have been studied to negatively affect fertility: phthalates and bisphenols. 

Phthalates are used to make plastic soft and flexible. They are of paramount concern and are found everywhere in food manufacturing, processing and packaging. They lower testosterone and so have the strongest influences on the male side, for example diminishing sperm count, decreasing libido and increasing risk of early puberty. For women, it’s been shown to contribute to premature ovarian failure, miscarriage and premature birth. Exposure during pregnancy can compromise baby's brain development and increase the risk of preterm birth.

Bisphenol A (BPA), was manufactured to harden plastic and found in things like cash-register receipts and the lining of some canned-food containers. It is estrogen mimicking and so is a particularly bad actor on the female side, increasing risks of fertility challenges. Men occupationally exposed to BPA have shown decreased sperm quality, reduced libido and higher rates of erectile dysfunction. 

Most Common Endocrine Disruptors to be Aware of: 

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is used in manufacturing, food packaging, toys, and other applications. BPA resins may be found in the lining of some canned foods and beverages and found in receipts.
  • Dioxins are a byproduct of certain manufacturing processes, such as herbicide production and paper bleaching. 
  • Perchlorate is a colorless salt manufactured and used as an industrial chemical to make rockets, explosives, and fireworks, which can be found in some groundwater.
  • Per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) large group of chemicals used widely in industrial applications, such as firefighting foam, nonstick pans, paper, and textile coatings. Studies have demonstrated that higher PFAS exposures may be associated with decreased fertility in women.
  • Phthalates are a large group of compounds used as liquid plasticizers. They are found in hundreds of products including some food packaging, cosmetics, fragrances, children’s toys, and medical device tubing. Cosmetics that may contain phthalates include nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, cleanser, and shampoo.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) are used to make flame retardants for products such as furniture foam and carpet.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used to make electrical equipment, such as transformers, and are in hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, lubricants, and plasticizers. 

See Fill List Here

The Impact on Fertility

One significant consequence of exposure to endocrine disruptors is the promotion of oxidative stress, leading to increased production of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells and tissues throughout the body, including those involved in reproductive function. Exposure to endocrine disruptors can exacerbate oxidative damage in reproductive organs, compromising sperm and egg quality and potentially leading to fertility issues.

Impact on Male Fertility: Endocrine disruptors can negatively impact male fertility. Studies have linked exposure to certain endocrine disruptors with lower sperm count, decreased sperm motility, and increased risk of reproductive disorders such as testicular cancer.

Impact on Female Fertility: Endocrine disruptors can also affect female fertility by disrupting menstrual cycles, interfering with ovulation, and contributing to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with decreased fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage.

WeNatal Formulas Can Help Fight Damage 

Taking a prenatal supplement rich in antioxidants (like WeNatal for Her and WeNatal for Him) can be a proactive step in mitigating the detrimental effects of endocrine disruptors on reproductive health. Endocrine disruptors can lead to increased levels of free radicals, which are known to compromise sperm and egg quality, thus hindering fertility. 

Antioxidants act as scavengers, neutralizing these harmful free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. By protecting reproductive cells from oxidative damage, antioxidants promote healthier sperm and eggs, thereby enhancing fertility potential. Regular intake rich in antioxidants (through supplementation and diet) can thus play a crucial role in optimizing reproductive health and improving the chances of conception.

6 Things to Avoid While Trying to Conceive (& their replacements):

  1. Plastic Containers: Opt for glass or stainless steel containers to heat food, store food and beverages to avoid exposure to BPA and phthalates.
  2. Pesticide-laden Produce: Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible to minimize exposure to pesticide residues. We love going to the local farmers market and talking to small scale farmers, most of them do not use pesticides or harsh chemicals. 
  3. Receipts!! Do not touch receipts! If it’s unavoidable, wear gloves and immediately wash your hands! Studies show women going through IVF, who were in the highest quartile for BPA exposure were shown to have impaired fertility and increased risk for miscarriage. They also produced fewer eggs, had lower rates of fertilization, fewer embryos on day 5, and a lower chance for successful pregnancy.
  4. Synthetic Hormones in Food: Select hormone-free meat and dairy products to avoid ingesting synthetic hormones commonly used in conventional farming. 
  5. Harsh Chemical Cleaners: Use natural or eco-friendly cleaning products to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals in the home environment. We love Branch Basics!
  6. Certain Personal Care Products: Check labels for ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and triclosan, and opt for natural alternatives to minimize exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We love the EWG app or ThinkDirty app to scan and look up products! 

Endocrine disruptors pose a significant threat to fertility, affecting both men and women alike. By being mindful of where these chemicals hide and taking proactive steps to minimize exposure, individuals can safeguard their reproductive health while on the journey to conception. Making informed choices about the products we use and the foods we consume can make a world of difference in protecting fertility and optimizing the health of your future baby! 

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Ronit Menashe & Vida Delrahim

Best friends since meeting at Nike over 15 years ago. Pregnancy loss, just a week apart changed their career trajectories. As they dug into the research they realized that there was a major need in the fertility and pregnancy industry - a good quality prenatal for BOTH women AND men.

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