If you are planning to have a baby, it is natural to wonder whether pollution and toxins you absorb from the environment every day may have an effect on your fertility and on having a healthy baby.
There is no denying that we are living in an environment much more toxic than the one our previous generations live in. Today, babies are born “pre-polluted”, according to the Washington DC-based Environmental Working Group (EWG).
In the study spearheaded by EWG in collaboration with the publication Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. (Further reading: http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns)
In the umbilical cord blood of these 10 newborns, researchers found pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
These vulnerable little babies had not yet had a meal, barely even a breath.
Toxicity and Developmental Effects
Through pregnancy and breastfeeding, the mother’s bodily toxins are passed onto the baby and owing to the nature of the fetal blood and inability to detoxify well, these are often concentrated in the fetus. There is some evidence a fetus detoxifies the mother, especially the first child.
While it is right to assume that toxins will accumulate during the child’s lifetime regardless, the early exposure is especially harmful. Infants are simply more sensitive to chemicals and are less able to detoxify pollutants.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and a committee from the University of California published a paper titled Exposure to Toxic Environmental Agents in 2013:
“Robust scientific evidence has emerged over the past 15 years demonstrating that preconception exposure to toxic environmental agents can have profound and lasting effects on reproductive health across the life course.”
The paper gives references that validate concerns that autism, preterm births, miscarriages, low birth weight, feminizing effects on boys genitals and childhood cancer rates have significantly increased over the past few decades.
Pesticides in the mother are associated with impaired cognitive development, learning disorders, impaired fetal growth, increased rates of childhood cancer.
Solvents are associated with miscarriage. Plastic residues phthalates and BPA reduce masculine play in boys, increase hyperactivity in girls and impair neurodevelopment in girls as well as increasing miscarriage rates.
Lead lowers IQ in children. Mercury is associated with deficits in attention (ADD/ADHD), slower language development, deficits in memory and coordination impairment, and possibly with autism as well. Mercury is the most dangerous and common of the heavy metals. (Further reading: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444422/)
The list of chemical pollutants goes on and on as you will find with any look into the research. The consequences of the population having been exposed are alarming!
While there can be immediate effects, also many of the effects occur later in lifespan, such as earlier onset of periods, development of ovarian and breast diseases as well as diabetes and obesity owing to endocrine disruption from early life exposures. Note that toxin-induced epigenetic modifications can be passed from one cell generation to the next and, in some cases, when germ cells are targeted, can be trans-generationally transmitted. Not only our children, but our children’s children may be affected by a high toxic load.
I write in the hope of motivating women planning their first child to be proactive, to learn about the issues by reading references such as those following, and making a decision to protect the unborn child. Ideally, both parents should take actions (toxins can also impact the father’s fertility and sperm quality).
Prevention and Detoxification
The first and simplest action is to reduce toxic exposures for at least 6 months prior to conceiving.
Examples of this being effective are with the mercury from fish. In the chart on the right we can see that by simply stopping the toxic trio of tuna, swordfish and shark (including shark fin, which has up to 40 times above the safe mercury levels) led to reduction of blood levels over the following 20 weeks to safe levels.
Here are my basic recommendations:
1. Eat fresh, unprocessed fruit and vegetables
Organic foods are ideal. Be sure to wash your food thoroughly to reduce possible pesticide or microbial contamination. The most loaded of the fruits and vegetables with pesticides are the so-called Dirty Dozen. The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies tested with lowest pesticide levels.
2. Avoid packaged food
Some packaged foods—such as microwave/oven-ready meals—leach chemicals into food. These chemicals can include endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA and phthalates. In particular, avoid plastics with the recycling codes #3, #4 and #7.
3. Eliminate or limit your consumption to oily fish and tuna
Oily fish can accumulate PCB in their fat tissues. PCB, which is associated with learning disorders, is highest in farmed salmon (especially from Scotland and Norway) as well as tuna. Tuna, shark, marlin, swordfish tends to accumulate mercury, and recommendations to minimize these types of fish are officially recognized in pregnancy. Other smaller non predator fish and prawns are acceptable.
4. Avoid cigarette smoke, cannabis and alcohol
Both can have adverse effects on fetal development as well as long-term health of both mother and child. Cannabis affects fertility.
5. Limit your use of personal care products
Remember that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe during pregnancy. Refer to EWG’s Consumer Guides for a list of the non toxic products.
6. Discuss medications with your doctor
In particular, discuss risks associated with terbutaline, valproic acid (valproate or Epilim), over-the-counter painkillers, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.
Apart from these obvious moves, also consider a pre-conception detox. An effective detox can help you safely and quickly eliminate toxins from your body. It can also improve your chances to conceive.
Can You Do More to Detox?
Four out of five couples previously diagnosed as infertile have been able to conceive naturally on an organic diet, hygienic lifestyle, heavy metal detoxification and a supplemental nutrition program, according to a study by Foresight, the association for pre-conceptual care in UK. Among those who conceived there were no miscarriages, no perinatal deaths, no malformations and no newborn admissions to intensive care. The intake group for the Foresight population are those having trouble with fertility or repeated miscarriage. Their experience strongly suggests interference from poor nutrition, heavy metals, recreational drugs and a conventional diet are often the cause of fertility and miscarriage issues.
Elsewhere in this months newsletter we outline supplements that can assist as preconception supplements. There are other supplements and tests recommended for infertile couples if required.
To safely and effectively remove real pollutants such as endocrine disruptors and heavy metals, a typical juice cleansing is completely ineffective, it wont even start the process because the necessary amino acids required for detoxification are not supplied. Certain amino acids are necessary for breakdown and safe elimination of most pollutants from the body.
Fasting is not advisable for those planning to conceive, since fasting slows metabolism, and depletes nutrients at a time when optimal nutrient levels are needed. So that is not an option, and is also quite ineffective at actually removing industrial pollutants from the body.
Our liver and other body cells need certain nutrients to chemically perform detoxification of the poisons stored in the body fat, brain and other organs. In the Pre Conception Detox at IMI, we carefully assess what type of toxins are present and supply the necessary detoxification support nutrients for these types of contaminants so as the liver and cellular detoxification process is up regulated. It is all a biochemical process and needs a nutritionally sophisticated approach.
IMI’s Pre-Conception Detox Program is led by myself, Graeme Bradshaw. My aim is to be thorough, investigating then removing the identifiable contaminants safely and effectively. It’s the only way to be sure you are really in a purified enough state to minimize chemical exposure to your unborn child.
Can You Be Tested For Your Toxin Load?
Yes, and it makes sense to test for the toxin type and amount pre-conception. We can perform tests for heavy metals and another pollutants such as organophosphates pesticides, herbicide, petrolium and solvent residues. The test is by Great Plains Labs called the Toxic Non Metal Profile. In addition testing for heavy metals such as mercury is easily performed.
Once we know your toxic burden, we can then tailor the length and intensity of the detox for your needs. You may follow up with the tests after 2 months to assess your progress.
I am passionate to assist women prepare to make her child as healthy as possible. To me, that means being toxin free during the pregnancy. To achieve the prevention of your baby being born with 200 toxic chemicals, your action will be needed.