There are around 70,000 to 85,000 chemicals in use today, with around 2,000 new chemicals coming onto the market each year. It is estimated that around 1% of these chemicals have been tested as Environment Protection Agencies struggle to keep up with the growing volume of new chemical compositions. These new chemicals are basically deemed safe until proven otherwise and so, it may take centuries for the environmental agencies to catch up. By the time we find out if certain chemicals could be harmful, the damage is likely to have already been done.
Indeed, a 2005 US study showed that there were 200 chemicals found in newborn baby cord blood. (EWG.org) Women are also at more risk to chemical exposure than men as they tend to use more beauty, toiletry and household products. “25 percent of women apply 15 or more products daily, including makeup and anti-aging creams, amounting to an average of 168 chemicals.” (ecowatch.com)
Chemical exposure is certainly something I talk to my patients about as studies are showing that over-exposure can have an effect on fertility. We also know that sperm count and overall sperm health has fallen dramatically compared with that of lesser developed countries. Whilst we don’t know exactly what is to blame, we can assume that chemical exposure and environmental factors have a big part to play.
So what can be done? This is a tough one to answer and I suppose the obvious one is ‘very little’! Whilst that is true, as the chemicals are in the air we breathe and the water we drink, we can take measures to limit our contact.
Switching to organic, natural makeup and beauty products, using natural household cleaners, getting an air purifier, eating organic food and drinking filtered water can all be useful.
I’ve managed to make all of these changes with little trouble but the one that I’ve continually struggled with is beauty products. If you’re anything like me, you spent years of trial and error trying to find the right moisturiser, foundation and mascara that was just right for you. And with natural products often costing more than their chemical counterparts it can be difficult to make the switch. Therefore I will make a promise to use this forum to showcase any products that I think are worth buying. I encourage you all to comment and share any other product tips you might have so we can make the looming task of reinventing our makeup bags a little easier.
When it comes to optimising your chances either with IVF or through natural conception, there is one single most thing that I believe is crucial. It comes in the form of a little hormone called Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is otherwise known as the Love Hormone. It’s the main hormone released during sex, or when we look into our loved ones eyes, or when we hold our baby for the first time. It gives us that overwhelming sense that we are not alone, that we have somebody to care for, that we love unconditionally.
The reason I believe this hormone is very important during conception is because it is also the hormone that is needed when a baby enters into the physical world. In order for a woman to go into natural labour, there needs to be an abundance of oxytocin in the system. This is needed both to induce and deliver the baby but also to deliver the placenta, and to encourage breast milk and feeding. But the body has a fantastic survival mechanism and so, if a woman goes into labour but then a big, snarling wolf comes into the room, the body will flood the system with adrenaline. Adrenaline cancels out oxytocin, so that labour stops to enable the woman to find safety. Once safe oxytocin comes back and labour continues.
It’s a wonderful system… If we were dealing with wolves on the reg! But the body can’t distinguish between a wolf and a printer jam at 6pm when you’re trying to get that important document out. The same is true of people that enjoy running. Your body doesn’t realise you’re not running away from that wolf! And so you see, we start flooding our system with adrenaline and there’s little room for oxytocin. That, coupled with the stresses of trying to make a baby… have I ovulated yet? I’m shattered, can we make it quick tonight? We had a glass of wine 3 years ago, would that affect things now? etc, etc. None of this is conducive to flooding our bodies with love hormone.
So the single most crucial thing when making a baby is to bring the love back. I know it can be tricky when you’ve been on this road for a while but it makes sense to me that if oxytocin is needed to help a child move from the womb to the outside world, it could also be very important in helping the embryo enter the womb. As yet, we don’t have the research to support this but we do know that foetus’s subjected to unpleasant emotions in the womb can impact their development. In fact, Chinese philosophy says that a healthy baby is conceived when there is love… and they know a few things about health! ;)
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac