Infertility is a rising problem in today’s unwell society. Billions are spent per year by desperate couples in an attempt to have a child. I can honestly say that never, in all my years of practice, has a couple come in who has seen a fertility “specialist” and the discussion included lifestyle changes. This is abhorrent.
First, let’s get one thing straight. Scrap Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs–as an organism on this planet our only job is to reproduce and propagate the species. What does that say when a couple cannot get pregnant? How much is the couple’s (and NOT just the woman..) physiology screaming for help, basically saying that things are too screwed up right now and we can’t handle the metabolic demands of a pregnancy?
So we just ignore that warning, collect billions of dollars from patients, and use chemicals and exogenous hormones to force pregnancy on a couple that clearly is not ready for it from a health standpoint. This is shameful from the point of the “specialists” (sorry for the continued quotation marks, but it just fits). These providers have a very captive audience that is likely willing to make every change necessary to get pregnant, and yet they miss one of the most valuable opportunities to improve health, viewing the achievement of pregnancy as the prize rather than the result.
Don’t get me wrong–true infertility does exist. Personally I remember only a single patient who, arguably, was a good candidate for fertility treatments because her lifestyle was close to optimal (although we never evaluated the ultimate topic of this post–more on this later).
So, what things can a couple do to achieve pregnancy naturally?
- Plant based diets (rather than animal based diets) improve fertility
- A prediabetic diet is the best approach for PCOS
- PCBs can interfere with fertility
- Lower cardiovascular risk factors (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc…)
It is very, very clear that making better lifestyle decisions will improve a couples chance of getting pregnant. The lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and not smoking are clear and most couples can understand and the decision to make these changes is in their hands.
However, less clear is avoiding toxic exposures that are known to impact pregnancy rates. PCBs were already mentioned above. Let me give a quick story..
I was opening a new account at a local bank. Upon entering, I noticed a strong “new shower curtain” smell, which is due to offgassing of phthales from certain materials. In this case, it was likely the carpeting. I then asked if this was new carpeting, and was informed by my female banker that it was at least a year old. Seeing a wedding picture on her desk, I told her that, breathing this stuff 8 hours per day for the past year (and likely for a very long time in the future) was a concern. I mentioned that, if she ever planned on getting pregnant, she should consider not working here (ok..so it was a little invasive of me to offer this advice, but I just couldn’t stop myself..).
This particular article supports my recommendations to this banker. What did researchers find?
By looking at levels of MEHP (a phthalate metabolite), they found that, in women with the highest levels, they had FOUR THOUSAND percent greater risk of an early pregnancy loss.
4,000%. Again, I would ask those couples spending thousands on “fertility” experts are getting lifestyle advice such as avoiding phthalates. If not, I would ask for my money back…