I wonder how many of us have done some DIY palmistry to predict how many children we’ll have? Apparently it’s the amount of vertical lines under your little finger. I wonder how many of you are checking that now?
But what if I told you there’s another way to predict your fertility that is fully endorsed by modern science. Anogenital distance (AGD) is the measurement between the anus and base of penis in a man, or anus and clitoris in a woman and can accurately predict the quality of the semen in men, and in women can show testosterone based hormonal disorders such as PCOS. Anyone ever checked that one before?! I won’t ask how many are checking it now!
It is such an accurate diagnostic for ascertaining future fertility in boys that some reproductive scientists are asking that it be a standard assessment by midwives.
The measurement is also a useful tool in adulthood. In men, the shorter the AGD the more likely a person will be to be childless, and/or have sperm insufficiency and pathology. In women, the longer the AGD the more likely they will be to have elevated testosterone diseases such as PCOS. Basically, the longer the AGD the more the testosterone. Great in men! Not so great in women.
So what determines the AGD? Blame your mothers. “If a woman is exposed to chemicals that block the action of androgens in the first trimester of pregnancy - during what’s called the reproductive programming window - it can affect the reproductive development of the male foetus in numerous ways. One is to shorten the AGD… which correlates with a lower sperm count and a smaller penis.” It can also increase the chance of undescended testicles. Another big problem affecting fertility in males. (Swan, 2020)
The same is true for baby girls. “Evidence suggests that some of the same chemicals that can affect male genital development in the womb can impact the timing of puberty in girls, leading most notably to earlier development of pubic hair, breasts, and the start of a girl’s period. In addition, in utero exposure to some of these same chemical culprits can have a negative impact on a female embryo’s ovarian function, leading to a hastened depletion of eggs when she’s a grown woman and an earlier age of menopause.” (Swan, 2020)
So which chemicals are causing all the damage? Chemicals known as EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) are the culprits and unfortunately they are virtually impossible to avoid. Pthalates (plastics) are the big ones. Closely followed by Bisphenol A - used to line food cans, piping, receipt paper and other everyday items. Flame retardants used to Scotch Guard carpets and in all sofas, mattresses, etc. Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. And it doesn’t stop there. There are many other chemical compounds that affect the endocrine system and as new chemicals emerge, it will take years to understand their impact on our reproductive systems.
DEHP, part of the chemical compound for Bisphenol A, for example, was used in a therapeutic setting in the 1940s to treat menstruation and the menopause as it was considered to be five times more potent than oestrogen. Worse still, it was used to prevent miscarriage and wasn’t banned until 1971 when it was discovered it caused a rare cancer in the women’s daughters. (Swan, 2020)
Unfortunately the substitutes that have come in to replace their predecessors are often as harmful as the ones they’ve been sent in to replace. It just takes years of research to prove and all the while consumers believe it safe.
So what does this mean for our future generation’s fertility? Well it’s bleak. With the continued decline in sperm health and with no signs of the curve levelling off it is predicted that everyone will need to use IVF to conceive by 2050.
Swan, 2020, Countdown: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperilling the Future of the Human Race
Eisenberg & Lipshultz, 2015, Anogenital distance as a measure of human male fertility, [Published online Dec 13 2014] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363236/
Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac