After you have decided you are ready to make real, meaningful life changes in order to support your health and fertility, the first step is to reduce the amount of exposure you (and your partner) have to fertility harming toxins.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by endocrine disruptors and other toxins which impair our fertility. They are in the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we (and the people around us) use, and the material world around us. We can never completely escape them in normal life. It is, however, absolutely essential that you do your best to reduce your exposure to them as much as possible while trying to conceive.
The good news is that new studies show that just reducing your exposure in ways you are able to (like eating organic food prepared at home or changing your cosmetics) can very quickly and drastically reduce the levels of these toxins in your blood. These are toxins that reliable scientific studies have shown have a detrimental effect on fertility in both men and women and on the health of the fetus. Taking the time to go through your home and your self-care routine and eliminate as much of these toxins as possible will vastly reduce your exposure and increase your natural fertility.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the list of things you need to avoid. Is it a lot? Yes. Is it scary to embark on a new lifestyle where you avoid all of these? Yes. Is it possible? TOTALLY. Part of the reason I started this blog was to share HOW we eliminated and reduced these toxins from our lives. It is easy to say, “hey avoid plastics,” but how do you actually do this and still live in the real world? It turns out it is hard and takes a lot of googling, but it isn’t impossible. And, don’t worry, I’m going to teach you all of the tricks.
Reducing your exposure to endocrine disruptors, such as BPA and phthalates, as well as to other toxins, such as pesticides, is now a core tenet of most mainstream fertility advice. However, just two years ago when I was researching natural fertility, I didn’t find out about any of it until I read Rebecca Fett’s book It All Starts with the Egg. Since then I have seen stories popping up more and more in mainstream media linking these toxins to diminished fertility. Further, I’ve seen similar stories to mine on multiple blogs and in lots of the self-published type fertility success stories on Amazon. What do all these authors have in common? They all reduced their exposure to fertility-harming toxins as much as possible, and THEY ALL GOT PREGNANT.
If you are having problems conceiving, it may be related to egg quality. These toxins absolutely negatively affect egg quality (and sperm quality). This is science. Don’t you dare spend tens of thousands of dollars on another IVF cycle until you reduce your exposure to these toxins. Cleanse your space today, and let your eggs grow healthy and strong without these toxins slowing them down.
A word of advice- almost all toxins that affect female fertility also affect male fertility. In fact some have been shown to affect sperm more than eggs (such as phthalates). Getting rid of plastics and harmful chemicals throughout your house will help both of you, and you should work together to cleanse your space as much as possible and you should both eliminate these items from your personal care products.
The most beautiful part of cleansing your home and personal care routine of fertility-harming toxins is that you are also creating a safe environment for a baby. The same toxins that hurt fertility also harm the fetus and small children. Consider the work you do to make a clean, green home, as a a welcome gift for your baby.
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Eliminate when possible or at least reduce exposure to as much as possible:
Plastics (BPA especially) – Although BPA is the worst of the plastics and repeated studies have shown its link to male and female infertility (especially during IVF), it turns out that almost all plastic is probably leaching the same endocrine disruptors. Additionally, BPA exposure in early pregnancy may cause fertility problems for your offspring later in life, especially if you have a baby boy.
To protect yourself you need to eliminate as much plastic from your house, but most importantly from contact with the foods you eat and beverages you drink. Stop drinking water from plastic bottles, only buy food in glass containers, keep all your food at home stored in glass or metal, and stop using that plastic Kuerig, water boiler, or coffee maker. The most important action you can take is to avoid consuming food or liquids from plastics that have been heated or exposed to the sun. This means you need to throw away all your old tupperware, and never put another plastic item in the dishwasher or microwave again. Our cabinets are filled with glass pyrex, mason jars and metal canisters. Avoid all canned food- most cans are lined with BPA, and unfortunately the “BPA-free” cans still have nasty endocrine disruptors in their lining. Also, it turns out that almost all receipts are coated with BPA (gross). When possible avoid handling receipts. When necessary, be sure to wash your hands afterwards.
Phthalates – These endocrine disruptors are used to soften plastics and are also in the “fragrance” or “parfum”that makes most products smell good. Phthalates are linked to decreased fertility in men and women, miscarriage, and pregnancy complications. They are in every product that says “fragrance” or “parfum” and doesn’t specifically designate itself as phthalate free. In addition to reducing your exposure to plastics as described above, check everything you own for “fragrance” or “parfum” in the ingredients. Don’t forget to check your household cleaners, your laundry detergent, your hand soap, your shampoo, your personal fragrance, your hair products, your deodorant, your moisturizer, your body wash, etc. Throw it all away and only buy things without phthalates. Unfortunately phthalates are hiding in all sorts of other sneaky places- like vinyl. Throw away your vinyl shower curtain and buy a cloth one you can wash. Finally, avoid all dairy and high fat meats. Unfortunately, even local, organic dairy and high fat meats contain a great deal of phthalates, BPA, and other endocrine disruptors, likely because they are processed with dangerous plastics and their high fat content holds onto the compounds more than other food products. Read my entire post on reducing phthalates and BPA here.
Parabens– These are preservatives found in all sorts of sneaky places like foods, personal care items, and pharmaceuticals. They act as endocrine disruptors and have been linked to diminished ovarian reserve. In other words, they AGE YOUR EGGS. Only buy personal care products that state they are “paraben free” and avoid ingredients such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and other ingredients ending in -paraben.
Pesticides– Pesticides kill fertility in men and women. Pesticides are related to delays in conceiving and harm to embryos, and spontaneous miscarriage. They are found in our food- so always buy organic to avoid consuming pesticides as much as possible. They are found in our water- so always filter your water to get rid of as much as you can. They are tracked in on our shoes- so consider ditching your carpet which research shows holds on to pesticides and spreads them around the house. Besides hardwood floor is beautiful! You can also adopt the practice of taking your shoes off when you come in the house. Most importantly, don’t use pesticides when gardening (and don’t hang out in gardens that use pesticides). You can easily treat most pests with natural simple homemade treatments such as vinegar based DIY mixes.
Antibacterial Soap– Triclosan is a nasty, nasty ingredient in almost all products claiming to be “Antibacterial.” It is an endocrine disruptor and will wreak havoc on your hormone system and your man’s sperm quality. Avoid all “antibacterial” household products, soaps, gels, dishwashing detergent etc., and watch out for “triclosan” as an ingredient. Also, double check to make sure it isn’t in your toothpaste. Ew.
Nonstick Pots and Pans– The chemical that makes nonstick pots and pans nonstick is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also refered to as Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) and it have been linked to infertility in men and women and in developmental delays in babies. Ditch any you have and treat yourself to a nice upgrade to cast iron or stainless.
Flame retardants– Flame retardent chemicals harm fertility and they are bad for babies. Unfortunately they are found in most couches, mattresses, and carpet padding. Luckily, some of the worst have been banned. When buying new furniture poney up the big bucks for pieces made of organic cotton, wool and latex, and avoid anything with a tag that says: “Complies with California TB117” (the law requiring furniture to be flame-retardant). Otherwise just wash your hands well and use a HEPA vaccuum weekly as the flame retardant chemicals accumulate in the dust in your house.
Paint – Just don’t paint your walls. Glycol ethers, and other compounds found in paint have a detrimental effect on fertility and are linked to miscarriage and harm to semen quality. If you must paint your house, hire painters and have them do it with the windows open and only use Non-VOC paint.
Nail polish & Nail Polish Remover– Big, big no no. This stuff is super gross, contains phthalates, and science links them to early miscarriage. You might have seen the recent New York Times expose on the harm it causes to beauty workers. Most importantly, never, never, never go to a nail salon where you will be inundated with these nasty fertility killing fumes. If you must have polished toes or nails, find a brand that is more natural, and do your nails yourself outside on a breezy day so you won’t inhale as much of the grossness. If you must use remover only use non-acetone- Acetone is also linked to miscarriage.
Hair dye – Absolutely no going to a regular hair salon or doing your hair at home with regular dye. Although there is no established link between the chemicals in hair dye and miscarriage, your OB will likely tell you to avoid dyeing your hair while pregnant (or at the very least to avoid it during your first trimester). Your hairdresser may also refuse to dye your hair. Even Princess Kate skipped dying while pregnant! Opt for an all natural at home option if you are some kind of beauty wiz, or shell out the big bucks and go to an all organic salon. I have to get my highlights done regularly to avoid looking totally gray so I found an organic salon where they even forbid their stylists to wear perfume that contains phthalates! Read my full post on safe hair dyes here!
Harsh cleansers, like bleach and ammonia– These cleaners can create all sorts of airborne toxins, such as dioxins, trihalomethanes and chloroform, all of which are linked to infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects. Try to avoid using them altogether. If bleach must be used, have your husband do it and leave a window open.
Dryer sheets– Don’t use them. They are covered in hazardous chemicals (including phthalates) and it spreads to all of your clothing. We’ve found that the all natural versions kind of suck so I can’t recommend them as an alternative. We use felt balls and they manage any static cling well. As a bonus, they help things dry evenly. And of course, absolutely no fabric softener. Its a rip off anyway.
Dry cleaning– The chemicals used in dry cleaning are harmful for fertility and linked to miscarriage. Avoid dry-cleaning if at all possible. If not possible, have your partner drop off and pick up the items, and then hang them somewhere to air out for a few days before using them yourself.
Sunscreen– The only sunscreens that are safe are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Avoid any other active ingredient which may be a carcinogen or an endocrine disruptor. Avoid aerosols and anything with a fragrance due to phthalate concerns. Check out my full post on the hazards of sunscreen, and non-toxic options here!
Sodium laureth sulfate – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and other sulfates were previously linked with reproductive issues, but I can currently find no concrete link. The -eths, however, like Sodium luarETH sulfate (SLES) can be potentially contaminated with very dangerous chemicals that then link them to cancer. Unfortunately the research and the interpretations of the research are very varied (unlike phthalates and parabens where the links are concrete). Ideally you are finding cleaning products and personal care products that are free of sulfates, SLES and SLS, but this is not the most important toxin to worry about.
What CAN you do?
- Eat organic food, and eliminate dairy from your diet.
- Eliminate plastic packaging as much as possible from your food and beverages.
- Only use safe, natural products from trustworthy brands for all your personal care and household products.
- Filter your water. This is the water filter we use and love. Here is my overview post on filtering your water to remove fertility-harming toxins.
- Check all your products on The Environmental Working Group’s site to ensure they are toxin free.
- Subscribe to my blog to see how we cleansed our home to increase our fertility!
I’ve pulled together a list of all our favorite non-toxic products that we use after years of research. Check out the products here!
Are you ready to overhaul your house and personal care routine to increase your fertility? Or have you already done this? What can you commit to doing today? What would you like me to blog about first in terms of “how to” tackle reducing these toxins from your life? Leave a comment below!
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Anna Rapp is a fertility journalist and non-toxic living expert. When Anna Rapp was struggling with infertility and recurrent early miscarriage, she was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, High FSH, low AMH, low follicle count, endometriosis, and an MTHFR mutation. Despite being told donor eggs were her only solution, Anna used her graduate training in research methods and analysis to read everything she could find on fertility and egg health. Ultimately, she lowered her FSH and got pregnant naturally (twice). She blogs about how she did it and encourages her readers to take charge of their fertility journey and get happy, healthy, and pregnant!