Pregnancy Planning and Environmental Pollutants
We are surrounded by toxic substances in our environment which can wreak havoc on our hormones: pesticides and weed killers in the ground, chemicals and additives in food, contaminants in drinking water, toxic compounds in car exhaust emissions and cigarette smoke, chemicals in solvents, plastics and adhesives, and all the substances we absorb through our skin from make-up, hair dyes and domestic cleaning products.
According to a press release issued by the organisation Friends of the Earth to highlight a campaign for safer chemicals, we now know of over 300 substances which have been around for less than 50 years that can be stored in our bodies. These substances lower the concentration of nutrients which are important to fertility and compromise our hormone balance.
Analyses show that pesticides, plastics and things we are exposed to on a daily basis such as additives, preservatives, cigarettes, high-fat foods, alcohol and coffee contain toxic substances which disrupt our hormones and increase the risk of infertility and even cancer. Furthermore, women who are exposed to heavy metals such as lead, aluminium or cadmium are more likely to have irregular cycles and suffer from hormone fluctuations.
To enable your body’s natural detoxification system to work properly, you must find ways to improve your lifestyle and diet, especially when it comes to obtaining sufficient nutrients.
To make this easier, try incorporating the following instructions into your daily routine:
- Wash fresh fruit and vegetables under running water, but don’t soak them. This is a better way of removing pesticide residues.
- Wash and peel non-organic fruit and vegetables before consuming. Also remove the outer leaves from cabbages and other leaf vegetables. Harmless aids to cleaning vegetables are available in all good health-food shops. Adding a few drops of vinegar to a bowl of water will also help in the cleaning process. Thorough washing cannot remove the pesticides contained on the inside of the produce, but peeling fruit and vegetables can reduce the residual content by three quarters. However, if you opt for organic produce, you only need to clean the outer surface. Make sure to include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet. This way you avoid ingesting too much of a particular pesticide.
We constantly drink from plastic bottles and eat food which is packaged in plastic. Today, there is a growing concern among scientists about whether these products are completely harmless or not. Metal cans and materials which are used to correct teeth are also causing concern among the scientific community.
One chemical compound that is of particular interest is Bisphenol A, a xenoestrogen used in food packaging materials (i.e. coating foils and cans), baby bottles, plastic bowls, and fillings for teeth. To indicate the enormous effect of these chemicals, take the following examples:
- After inhaling dust containing Bisphosphate, some male workers developed breasts.
- One study proved that women who experienced one or more miscarriages had triple the concentration of Bisphosphate A in their blood than women who had never suffered a miscarriage.
As long as the exact details of how plastics can affect our health remain unknown, you should take some simple measures to protect yourself:
- Use plastic containers and tableware made from polyethylene which do not contain any softening agents. If you cannot determine this clearly from the product description or label, don’t buy the product.
- When you are cooking or reheating meals, do not allow plastic containers to come into contact with the food. Do not wrap food in plastic film, use paper instead. When you buy food sealed in film, remove the food from the packaging straight away and store it in a suitable container. Do not keep high-fat foods in plastic containers. Xenoestrogens are lipophilic (i.e. they can be transferred to foods with a high fat content).
- When you buy hard cheese sealed in plastic film, scrape the surface with a knife. Do not use plastic containers in a microwave oven. Ideally, you should refrain completely from heating food in a microwave oven.
- Use glass bottles! Carbonated drinks from cans and plastic bottles have six times the concentration of aluminium. In addition, a small amount from the inner lining of cans or from the plastic bottle dissolves into the drink.
- Refill your own non-plastic water bottle instead of using toxic plastic bottles. It is in the interest of your health to have your own water bottle and to drink from it throughout the day.
We have already learned how important it is to drink sufficient fluids when you want to get pregnant. Water is not only crucial to detoxifying our bodies, it also tops up the fluid supplies of the liver, the kidneys and the supra-renal glands; it also purifies and rejuvenates the cells and helps in repairing them. Water is probably the most important ingredient in a healthy diet and detoxification regime. An awareness that a large part of our mains water is contaminated has given rise to an increase in the consumption of bottled water. The problem with this is that the next bottle of water you drink may be nothing more than mains water which has been passed through a filter.
Always opt for mineral water, because water sold as “Spring Water” may just simply be mains water by another name.
The simplest and most cost effective way of ensuring the purity of your drinking water is to use your own filter system. Filter jugs are available in all retail shops that sell home appliances. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking. Bear in mind that filter material can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. You should therefore replace filters regularly and thoroughly clean the water jug often. A good-quality filter should eliminate heavy metals such as lead and cadmium as well as chlorine, or at least greatly reduce their concentration.
As different studies show, cadmium also has a harmful effect on male and female fertility. This highly toxic element is found in cigarette smoke, accumulates in the body and blocks the absorption of vital substances such as zinc, which is important for fertility.
What you can do is simple: give up smoking and protect yourself against passive smoking.
Scientific studies have shown that aluminium impairs the absorption of nutrients and can therefore also impact fertility. The most common sources of aluminium are: antacids, deodorants, anti-clumping agents in dried milk, aluminium kitchenware, drink cans and foil.
What you can do:
Buy aluminium-free deodorants. Remove all your aluminium pots and pans and replace them with kitchenware made from iron, glass and stainless steel. Do not drink carbonated drinks from aluminium cans because the metal could dissolve in the drinks.
Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal. Traces of mercury are found in pesticides, fillings for teeth and certain kinds of fish. Studies have shown that Mercury reduces fertility by accumulating in the pituitary gland, which is crucial to stimulating the production of sexual hormones.
An alarming finding to prove this theory is female dentists’ high rate of miscarriages. Also, dental assistants who come into contact with mercury through fillings containing amalgam have a lower fertility than those who have no contact with this heavy metal.
If the fillings in your teeth are dark grey or silver in appearance, they contain mercury and various other metals in the form of an alloy, known as amalgam. Unfortunately mercury is toxic. It can escape from the filling in the form of mercury vapour and pass into our bodies when we consume hot drinks such as tea or coffee, brush our teeth or chew gum. One study, in which over 100 research reports and medical files were assessed, concludes that the accumulation of mercury in the body can cause many different symptoms such as allergies, chronic exhaustion, depressive episodes, flu-like ailments, menstruation complaints, reduced sperm levels, ovulation disorders, and miscarriages.
What you can do:
When you need a new filling, ask your dentist for alternatives to the standard metal filling. If you already have amalgam fillings, ask your dentist to do a test to see whether mercury can escape. Perhaps you would now like to have all your amalgam fillings replaced? If the test reveals that there is no indication that mercury is passing into your body, you should not have the replacement work done while trying to get pregnant because mercury could be released during the procedure. Our advice is to have all of your necessary dental treatments completed three months before attempting to get pregnant. You should also avoid dental X-rays, fillings and anaesthetics as soon as you are actively trying to conceive a child. You could already be a few weeks pregnant before you know for certain.
Copper is one of the essential trace elements but can be toxic in high concentrations. The body can absorb copper from water pipes or from contraceptive coils. The main problem with copper is that if its concentration increases too sharply, the body’s absorption of zinc will be impeded. Zinc deficiency contributes to infertility, so you should therefore keep an eye on the copper concentration in your body.
What you can do:
Do not wear copper jewellery if you are planning to get pregnant.
Many experts believe that contamination in homes, offices and other buildings are some of the greatest risk factors for health and fertility.
Carpets, paints and decorating materials
If you are planning to get pregnant, you should be particularly careful when it comes to decorating your home. Paints that contain solvents and turpentine substitute release gases which can hang in the air for weeks after the painting work has been finished. Also, new carpets often contain the preservative formaldehyde, which can irritate the mucous membranes of eyes, nose and throat. An American study of women who were suffering from unexplained infertility revealed a high concentration of two chemicals which are present in carpets, leather upholstery and wood preserving agents.
To reduce the number of chemicals used in your home such as polishes, bleaches, detergents and room sprays, observe the following recommendations:
A dash of vinegar on a damp cloth is ideal for cleaning unvarnished wood. You can also add some vinegar to your steam cleaner; it kills house dust mites and bacteria. Create your own room spray by mixing a few drops of essential oil with baking soda. Spray it on the carpet and leave it to work in for 15 minutes before running over the carpet with your vacuum cleaner.
Cleaning sprays for bathrooms leave behind a fine chemical film. The slightly volatile gases can be inhaled and cause breathing difficulties. Instead of cleaning agents you can use a mixture of two parts water to one part vinegar.
A good alternative to floor cleaners, which contain lots of chemicals: add a cup of vinegar to a bucket of water.
Toiletries and cosmetics
Many perfumes and perfumed products contain harmful chemicals; you should therefore always read the label carefully. Be careful when applying make-up and moisturisers, as the chemicals they contain can get under the skin.
Many commercial bathroom toiletries contain detergents and artificial fragrances which cause irritation of the skin and mucous membranes. You can take a comfortably relaxing bath by adding to the warm bathwater natural substances such as, for example, dried or fresh fragrant herbs (try lavender, rosemary or peppermint), essential oils or a cup of Epsom salts. For a bubble bath use natural or organic soap, which you can buy in wholefood shops or pharmacies.
- Avoid contact with toxic ammonia. Ammonia can irritate the eyes and respiratory organs and cause burns on the skin. A homemade solution to replace toxic cleaners is to mix distilled vinegar or apple vinegar with water in the ratio of 1:1 and pour the solution into a spray-bottle. Spray your windows and wipe them down with a newspaper. Doing this delivers a shine without streaking or causing potential harm to your body!
- A dash of vinegar on a damp cloth is ideal for cleaning unvarnished wood. You can also add some vinegar to your steam cleaner because it kills house dust mites and bacteria. Create your own room spray by mixing a few drops of essential oil with baking soda. Spray it on the carpet and allow to sit for 15 minutes before running over the carpet with your vacuum cleaner.
- Cleaning sprays for bathrooms leave behind a fine chemical film. These slightly volatile gases can be inhaled and cause breathing difficulties. Try replacing these cleaning agents with a mixture of two parts water to one part vinegar.
- Floor cleaners often contain lots of potentially harmful chemicals and can also be replaced by adding a cup of vinegar to a bucket of water.
Many perfumes and perfumed products contain harmful chemicals, so it’s always a good idea to read the label carefully before purchasing these products. Take care when applying make-up and moisturisers to avoid chemicals getting under your skin. Many commercial toiletries contain detergents and artificial fragrances which can irritate your skin and mucous membranes.
What you can do:
For an all natural relaxing bath, try adding dried or fresh fragrant herbs (lavender, rosemary or peppermint), essential oils, or a cup of Epsom salts to warm water. Try switching to natural, organic soap which you can purchase in wholefood shops or pharmacies.
If you want to get pregnant, you should not dye your hair, nor should you use any hair treatment that comes in contact with your scalp. If you are already pregnant, it is recommended that you wait until the fourth month before undergoing any hair treatments.
What you can do: Having your hair highlighted is a good alternative to a full dye because the chemicals do not come in contact with the scalp. You can also try out some harmless alternatives to chemical hair dyes.
Taxi and truck drivers
As studies show, spending long hours in a sedentary position while driving result in a reduced sperm count or in abnormally formed sperm.
Welders, bakers, chefs and firefighters
Every profession which involves men being exposed to intense heat can reduce the quality and quantity of their sperm. Firefighters also come into contact with a large number of chemical substances which can damage their health and impair their fertility.
Painters, office cleaners, chemistry lab technicians
Contact with solvents and other toxic substances can reduce the fertility of men and women, although today there are increasing signs that the effects on women could be more dramatic.
It has been shown that farmers and agricultural workers who come into contact with pesticides and other chemicals have a lower sperm count.
Doctors, veterinary surgeons and dentists, staff in doctor's practices and hospitals
The fertility of men and women who are regularly exposed to anaesthetic gases, ethylene oxide, zytostatics, mercury and X-rays is seriously jeopardised. Men who regularly come into contact with X-rays are particularly likely to have a lower sperm count.
As already mentioned above, regular contact with solvents and dyes can impair the fertility of both men and women.
Those who come into contact with formaldehyde at work can suffer from reduced fertility. At particular risk are hospital workers and also female workers in factories in which plastics, paints, foam materials, resins and furniture are manufactured.
Cleaners and nailcare beauticians
Women who work in a beauty salon or as cleaners during pregnancy run a high risk of having a child with learning difficulties. One study has shown that regular contact with solvents in the workplace during pregnancy resulted in children with attention disorders and lower IQs.
For women who have come into daily contact with chemical hair dyes for many years, the risk of miscarrying appears to be slightly higher. It is suspected that regular contact with the foetus-harming substances contained in dyes (teratogen) can cause birth defects and increase the risk of a miscarriage.
Stress is recognised as being harmful to fertility and according to recent research, there is a possible link between high-stress jobs and an increased risk of miscarriages. In addition to contact with environmental pollutants and the stress of demanding activities, there are further factors related to jobs that can impair fertility. For example, women who work shifts or nights can experience problems when they are trying to get pregnant because their lack of daylight and varying schedules can affect their menstrual cycles and ovulation. Stress from unusual working hours can also harm men’s health and fertility.