Infertility Rates are Rising- What You Need to Know

Fertility. It’s something we often take for granted when we’re planning our lives. In fact, many women spend a lot of money and effort in preventing pregnancy until the timing is right for conception. However, even when the timing is right, our bodies don’t always cooperate. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in infertility. One study found infertility rates increased from 5.4 percent in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2011, a substantial increase in a short period of time.

An Integrative Approach To Fertility

What makes infertility particularly frustrating is that it’s often hard to determine a cause when a couple has difficulty conceiving. Causes of infertility are often multifactorial, and many elements of a couple’s health need to be considered to understand the potential cause(s) in order to best optimize their ability to conceive. That’s why an integrative approach, taking into account lifestyle, genetics, stress levels, and overall health is best if you’re experiencing fertility issues.

Timing is important because so many different elements need to be considered – and timing is a key component, both in terms of your chronological age and the timing of conception. In general, a couple is considered infertile if they’ve been trying for a year to conceive without success. However, it’s often a good idea to start taking some proactive steps to improve your fertility as soon as you have decided you want to conceive.

Factors That Can Affect Your Fertility:

What’s contributing to the increase in infertility? Medical scientists can’t pinpoint one specific cause, but many lifestyle factors can play a role. Some things that can influence fertility include:

Hormone levels

Many hormones work in tandem to create the optimum conditions for conception, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone. Perhaps not surprisingly, even a tiny variation in your hormone balance can affect your fertility.

That’s why the first step to any fertility treatment is often testing hormone levels. Knowing how your hormones are working together gives your healthcare practitioner an excellent starting point.

Genetic history

If you have a relative who had difficulty conceiving, you may also be at risk for fertility issues. Recent research has found genetic components to some chromosomal problems.

Your Vital Stats

Age & Fertility

It’s often frustrating for women to realize that age is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to infertility. After all, for many women, it can feel like a narrow window between being financially and emotionally ready to have a baby and being the right age to conceive.

Of course, we all see many examples of women well into their 40s (and beyond) having babies. And it’s definitely possible. However after 35, the odds of getting pregnant decrease at a faster rate. Simply put, we are born with a set number of eggs in our ovaries. As we grow older our risk for other factors that impact fertility increase.

Still, it’s important not to overstate the decline women experience in their 30s. Consider these stats:

  • Percentage of 27-to-34-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 86 percent
  • Percentage of 35-to-39-year-old women who conceive after a year of having sex at least twice a week = 82 percent

So through our 30s, the odds of conception doesn’t decline very dramatically. However, fertility rates do drop faster after 40, so about 30 percent of women between 40 and 44 will experience infertility.

Weight & Fertility

In addition, your weight can impact your fertility. That’s because excess weight can affect your hormone levels and lead to irregular ovulation. The good news is that studies have found that losing just small amount of weight can make a difference.

Somewhat paradoxically, women who are underweight (with a BMI of less than 18.5) can experience similar problems because not having enough body fat can also impact your hormone production. However, it’s not just the number of your BMI. Body composition (the amount of body fat and lean muscle) and activity levels also play a role.

Of course, it takes two people to conceive. Interestingly, scientific studies have found a clear link between male obesity and low sperm levels. In fact, men whose BMI places them in the obese category have 60 percent less seminal fluid than men of normal weight. That’s a pretty significant difference. Underweight men also have lower amounts of seminal fluid, so it’s all about having the right balance — as with many aspects of your fertility.

Stress Levels

Can stress affect your infertility? The answer often is yes. For some women, this is an added source of frustration. After all, dealing with infertility is stressful in itself. However, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. Your body might realize that when you’re stressed, you need to conserve energy. In our busy modern life, this process can continue. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce more of the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol as well as elevates prolactin. Both of which can suppress ovulation, not to mention weaken your libido (which is definitely necessary for conception!)

Thyroid Health

Another hormonal issue that can affect ovulation is having low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism. Also paradoxically, hyperthyroidism, or high levels of thyroid hormone, can affect ovulation. (You’re probably starting to understand why achieving the right hormone balance is so important!) Thyroid hormone plays a big role in letting your ovaries know when to ovulate, so when your thyroid hormone levels are out of whack, ovulation can be too.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals – in your foods, your clothing, your cleaning products, beauty care and elsewhere – has been shown to impact fertility levels for both men and women. And you don’t have to work with toxic substances to experience the effects. Even a fairly healthy standard Western diet can introduce pesticides that have negative impacts on our reproductive systems. Removing the toxins from your system requires professional guidance but well worth it for improving your overall picture of health.

How You Can Take Charge Of Your Fertility

As we can see from the list above, treating infertility can be complex. Is there anything you can do on your own to improve your fertility? The most important thing is to act now if you have concerns. Don’t forget: Conception requires careful timing, so you do want to address any issues right away. Here are some steps that can help with fertility issues.

1. Visit your Naturopathic Doctor that is trained in fertility and women’s health issues.

Proper testing to see what’s really going on with your whole body will give us a better picture. Treating infertility requires addressing your overall health, not just your reproductive system. While your hormones play a key role so do many other factors. We can work together to help prepare your body for conception and eliminate the stress of wondering if there is more you should be doing and how to start!

2. Manage your stress levels.

We understand that this is easier said than done, especially when you’re worrying about fertility. (It’s always a bit of a vicious cycle if you start to get stressed about having to relax!) Meditation is a good way to consciously address your emotional concerns.

3. Improve your diet.

One recent study found that women who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide levels were less likely to conceive. So choose organic produce when possible, or opt for produce that doesn’t typically have as much pesticide exposure (think thick skin that protects the fruit like avocados or oranges).

In addition, certain foods have been associated with higher fertility levels. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you determine the best diet for your needs. In general, you want to ensure you’re getting adequate levels of folate, Omegas, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.

4. Limit toxic exposure.

Both males and females should think about the chemicals they’re exposed every day when they’re trying to conceive. In addition to possible pesticides on produce, frequent exposure to x-rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol but also toxins in the home and in products you use on your body everyday can all impact infertility. In addition, workplace hazards like exposure to lead and cadmium can all upset the hormonal balance required for peak fertility.

5. Consider Preconception Counselling.

Please visit our preconception page at for more information.

Next Steps

If you’re concerned about your fertility, give us a call. Together we can dive deeper and see where your issues are and put together a clear treatment program. Fertility is a common issue. Just know that you are not alone and that we successfully treat many men and women with fertility issues at our clinic.

Pollutants Linked to Lower Fertility in Both Men and Women

Environmental Pollution in the Home: Everyday Things May be Harming Your Health

Is your home affecting your health? If you avoid obvious pollutants like cigarette smoke, you may be pretty certain your home is not toxic. And if you clean regularly, you might even be slightly offended by the suggestion! However, indoor pollutants are much more common than many people realize. The sources of many pollutants are everyday objects and products we don’t consider harmful.

The media devotes a lot of attention to outdoor pollution (and it’s a valid health concern). However, indoor air pollution is a growing concern, in part because we spend about 90 percent of our time inside. According to emerging research, including a landmark United Nations study, many commonly used chemicals within the home can act as endocrine disruptors when we’re exposed to them.

What’s An Endocrine Disruptor?

Simply put, your endocrine system controls various functions in your body by releasing hormones. It controls how much of each hormone is released based on intricate feedback loops. Certain environmental pollutants have been found to disturb this process.

The result? Imbalances in your hormonal system. When taken to the extreme, these imbalances can put us on the road to disease such as breast, thyroid and prostate cancer, and disruptive conditions like ADHD.

Common Environmental Pollutants In The Home

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize an environmental pollutant. In fact, some products we identify as “healthy” can be harmful.

Take a look at this list of possible sources of indoor pollution:

1. Cleaning products

Keeping a clean home has long been recognized as an important step in maintaining good health. However, many common cleaning products contain carcinogens such as methylene chloride, which has been linked to increased breast cancer rates.

One thing to keep in mind with cleaning products is that compounds can linger in the air long after the smell has disappeared. For example, molecules in aerosol sprays can be absorbed by dust. That can lead to respiratory irritation.

In addition, these chemicals can react with other compounds in the air, such as ozone and create “secondary emissions” which can be even more harmful.

2. Nonstick cookware

The same chemicals that make nonstick cookware so convenient can also harm your health. Compounds found in materials such as Teflon can contribute to certain cancers and even high cholesterol.

3. Air fresheners

A quick spray of air freshener can make our homes smell fresh and clean. However, the effects on our bodies undermines the pretty scents. When it comes to scented products, it’s often difficult to obtain a complete list of all of the chemicals they contain, but many air fresheners do contain phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal problems, particularly in males.

4. Antibacterial products

Using antibacterial products might seem like a good step towards a healthier home, but studies have found that many commonly used substances in antibacterial products, such as triclosan, can impact our reproductive hormones. As well, overuse has been linked to an increase in allergies for children.

In addition, overuse of antibacterial products is leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

5. Water

Government regulations are supposed to keep our drinking water safe from contaminants. However, growing evidence shows that our water supplies contain small amounts of hormones, particularly estrogen. Even these small amounts can disrupt our natural hormonal balance over long periods.

6. Plastics

Plastic containers and water bottles might make life more convenient, but in the long run, they’re not the best choices. Many containers and cans contain BPA, or other xenoestrogens. (In fact, many items marked as “BPA free” contain compounds which may be just as harmful.)

Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors which specifically mimic the effects of estrogen. Overexposure can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and other symptoms of estrogen dominance.

7. Scented bathing and personal care products.

Did you know that the chemicals that give scented products their distinct smells aren’t regulated? And that 95 percent of those scents originate in petroleum byproducts?

It’s easy to feel a bit concerned when you read a list like the one above! After all, we want a clean home and to use the most convenient products possible. Fortunately, a few small changes can reduce environmental pollution in your home.

How To reduce Environmental Pollution In The Home (AKA Give Your Home A Detox)

1. Don’t try to “mask” unpleasant scents.

Instead of spraying air freshener, try removing the source of the bad odor – wash the dirty clothes (without scented fabric softener!), change the kitty litter. If you need extra ammunition against odors, baking soda is a natural air freshener. A HEPA air filter can also clean air odors right at the source.

For a natural scent, try boiling cinnamon sticks or vanilla pods on the stovetop.

2. Choose cleaning products carefully.

Be aware of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. The Environmental Working Group has a searchable database of more than 2,500 products.

As well, vinegar, baking soda, and plain hot water can be surprisingly effective cleaners, so doing a bit of research on natural options can pay off.

3. Avoid aerosols.

Using natural air fresheners that rely on essential oils, or even simmering some lemon slices and a few cloves in a pan, will do the trick just as well and without the side effects.

4. Think about the long-term effects of your purchases.

A plastic container might be the cheapest option to store your leftovers, but pause and take a minute to consider the possible impact on your health (and the environment for that matter). Sometimes investing a bit more money is the best choice in the long run. Plus, a stainless steel water bottle, or a glass or ceramic food container should last you much longer.

5. Be careful with plastics.

If you have to use a plastic container, don’t heat it in the microwave. That can cause more xenoestrogens to be released into your food.

6. Consider your water source.

If you want to avoid tap water, consider using a filtration system. (It’s best to avoid bottled water, which is often not much better than tap water and has the added risk of contamination from plastic bottles.) However, the water industry is filled with false claims, and prices can be steep. We can review your options in the office to make sure you make the best choice for your needs.

Of course, everyone is different and we all have unique health concerns and personal goals. If you’d like to learn more about environmental toxins and how you can reduce your risks, give our office a call. Additionally if you are suffering from health issues you can’t seem to figure out the cause of, it could be related to toxins. We can help!