Environmental Factors Affecting Women’s Health
Many factors can impact female fertility, from nutrition, weight and physical health to psychological stress and medication use.
A key influencer that women increasingly need to consider is the environment in which they live. Environmental factors have been strongly linked to women’s ability to conceive and have healthy pregnancies.
Air pollution is a growing threat to health around the world. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) reportmore than nine out of ten of the world’s population (92%) live in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits.
There is a strong link between this health risk and fertility. Research has shown that air pollution is associated with a diverse set of outcomes, ranging from altered sperm and egg production with epigenetic changes and birth defects.
A mouse study conducted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology highlighted how breathing high levels of the ozone pollutant at ground level could affect women’s ability to conceive. The results showed that breathing ozone on the day of ovulation decreased progesterone levels in female mice and also reduced the number of ovulated eggs.
Dr. Carla Caruso, Resident Physician at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine comments:
“Additionally, this acute ozone exposure affected important brain and ovarian signaling events that are critical to the ovulation process.”
Globally, air pollutants can be two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. It can also pose a particular threat in low- and middle-income countries where about 3 billion people still cook with solid fuels (such as wood, crop waste, charcoal, coal, and manure) and kerosene in open fires and inefficient stoves, creating an environmental hazard that could significantly impact fertility and health during pregnancy.
Exposure to chemicals
Exposure to potentially harmful chemicals is another increasingly common health issue in the modern world, especially for women who are trying to conceive or who are currently pregnant.
Organic pollutants and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) in the environment have an effect on male and female fertility.
Endocrine disruptors are usually man-made and found in materials such as pesticides, metals, food additives and personal care products. Human exposure generally occurs through ingestion of food, dust and water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air and through the skin.
In addition to altering reproductive function in both males and females, endocrine disruptors can be transferred from mother to child through the placenta and breast milk.
Given the range of external factors that influence a woman’s fertility and general health, as well as the development and well-being of babies and children, it has never been more important for women to be aware of the environment in which they live. Chemicals are exposed to the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. They are found in the personal products of our daily lives. Recommendations include rinsing all products with water, consuming pesticide-free products, avoiding heating plastic in the microwave, screening personal care products for endocrine disruptors like phthalates and l avoiding cooking in Teflon pans.
Environmental Working Group offers very good advice on all the products to avoid.
Worldwide, minimize environmental threats to human health and reproduction is a necessity if we are to progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), it requires governments and authorities to ensure continued action to protect public health and manage environmental risks.
Although political, economic and social challenges remain, it is hoped that all stakeholders will continue to collaborate and drive the agenda forward, as there is much at stake for reproductive health and fertility for this generation and generations. future.