Where Does the Blame Lie For Infertility?


More and more couples are experiencing problems with conception. This can be due in part to waiting later in life to have a child, but often it can be related to unforeseen exposure at work, recreational drug use, even the morning cup of coffee. Here are some statistics that might give you an idea where to begin looking for the culprit... Fertility is a complex process. We all think of age as being the most relevant determination of fertility. In fact, your odds of being infertile do increase with age: 15-24 years old ... 4.1% 25-34 years old ... 13.1% 35-44 years old ... 21.4%

The risk of miscarriage also increases with age: 20-29 years old ... 10% risk 45 or older ... 50% risk

But infertility is definately on the rise for more reasons than the age old adage of old age. In fact, daily lifestyle habits seem to be the biggest thing to affect fertility. The good news about this is that many of these things are treatable, changeable and preventable. So the responsibility for your fertility may truly be in your own hands.

The first misconception is that females are wholly responsible for a couple’s infertility. In fact, male infertility has increased over the past 40 years. One half of 1% of men were functionally sterile in 1938. Today, it has reached between 8 and 12%. But you should realize that overall, 40% of infertility cases are due to the male. The obvious reason for this is quality and quantity of sperm. Studies have shown that women experiencing miscarriages typically had husbands with lower sperm counts and 48% had visually abnormal sperm. Low sperm counts is just one of the issues. Sperm motility, abnormal sperm development, even serious sperm deformation all can be contributing factors.

So why the problem with one of man’s most basic functions? Well, a lot of it may be due to toxic exposure.

Smoking: Smokers’ sperm counts are, on the average, 13-17% lower than non-smokers. A study of three smokers who were followed for 5-15 months after stopping smoking reported that their sperm counts rose 50-800%. Also 38% of female non-smokers conceived in their first cycle of attempting pregnancy compared with 28% of smokers.

Pharmaceutical Drugs: Some drugs such as sulphasalazine, used to treat inflammatory bowel disease can drastically reduce semen quality.

A common treatment for infertility is the presciption of FSH. However, researchers stated, "Persistent stimulation of the ovary by gonadotropins (FSH) may have a direct carcinogenic effect."

Sperm damage was about 50% higher in test animals exposed to the anesthesia enflurane. These levels were equal to those given normally to humans.

Job-Related Exposure: Men experiencing infertility were found to be employed in agricultural/pesticide related jobs 10 times more often than a control group of men not experiencing infertility. Tests have also linked testicular damage with the pesticide chlordane. Approximately 70% of current U.S. homes are found to contain the pesticide chlordane (used in termite treatment) in the breathable air. 6-7% of these had levels that were substantially above "safe" levels.

The common car exhuast compound benzo(a)pyrene causes a significant reduction in fertility, which was further lowered when lead was also present during exposure.

Radiation exposure from working with computers, televisions or other high electrical field appliances can negatively impact sperm count and motility, particularly if it is daily exposure or for long periods of intense time.

Spontaneous abortion increased four fold for women once they became employed as microelectronics assembly workers. Their job was found to subject women to a number of chemical solvents used in cleaning as well as solder vapors. Two solvent chemicals used in making silicon chips caused working pregnant mothers who were exposed during work to have a 33% miscarriage rate, where the normal rate is 15%.

Birth defects occurred nearly 3 times more often in a study of Michigan nurse anesthetists as a result of their repeated exposure to anesethesia drugs in their work.

Studies of painters found they are more likely to father children with defects of the central nervous system.

The Harvard Health Letter stated that "Men who work in aircraft industry or handle paints or chemical solvents are at higher risk of producing children with brain tumors. A father’s exposure to paints has also been linked to childhood leukemias."

Again, The Harvard Health Letter stated that "Firemen appear to produce an unusually high number of abnormal sperm and be less fertile than other males."

Women working in the rubber, plastics or synthetics industries had an 80% greater chance of stillbirth. Fathers employed in the textile industry resulted in their wives having a 90% greater chance of stillbirth. Exposure of the father to the chemicals polyvinyl, alcohol and benzene (common in gasoline, cleaning solvents, adhesives and oil based paints), was associated with a 50% increase in premature delivery.

Coffee: A study of 1,909 women in Connecticut found the risk of not conceiving for 12 months was 55% high in women drinking 1 cup of coffee per day and 100% high for women drinking 2-3 cups of coffee per day. Coffee drinking before and during pregnancy was associated with over twice the risk of miscarriage when the mother consumed 2-3 cups per day.

MSG: Monosodium Glutamate, a common flavor enhancer added to foods, was found to cause infertility problems in test animals, with a 50% less success rate of fertilization and offspring with shorter body length and higher body weights.

Recreational Drug and Alcohol Use: Marijuana use at "moderate" levels was found to stop ovulation for 135 days in test subjects. Researchers also stated that the THC in marijuana may be directly toxic to the developing egg.

A 50% reduction in conception was found in experiments of test animals given "intoxicating" doses of alcohol 24 hours prior to mating.

Cocaine exposure of males before conceiving is linked to abnormal development in offspring. The suspected cause is that cocaine binds onto the sperm and therefore, finds its way into the egg at fertilization.

Environmental Pesticides:

Reports have suggested that environmental estrogens (chemicals which mimic our natural estrogens) are creating infertility problems by confusing the body’s estrogen receptors. Some pesticides have already been shown to be environmental estrogens, including the food additive BHA. Even PVC and a variety of plastics have been found to be somewhat estrogenic.