Your trusty water bottle is coded No. 3, No. 6 or No. 7....

And you eat the wrong canned tomatoes. Or touch too many cash register receipts. And use the wrong sex toys. Or otherwise have contact with—and absorb too much of—things that contain the estrogen-mimicking plastic-softening chemical BPA (Bisphenol A). In one investigation that took place at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, patients with the highest BPA levels produced 24 percent fewer eggs than average; of those eggs, 27 percent fewer could be fertilized, and fewer embryos implanted. In another study, scientists exposed immature eggs to BPA; the higher the dose, the likelier those eggs were to degenerate or, oddly, act as if they were fertilized even though they weren't. The good news is that our bodies metabolize BPA rapidly, explains study author Russ Hauser, MD, MPH, ScD, a professor at Harvard School of Public Health. "Within 24 hours it can be excreted."

The lesson: We're exposed to many sources of BPA throughout the day—and levels constantly rise and fall with exposure, Hauser says. Keep your daily load as low as possible by following this list of things to avoid, and find BPA-free alternatives to those water bottles, cans...and, yes, that pocket rocket.

A common environmental chemical is the culprit.

Unfortunately, other hormone-altering chemicals—PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and similar pollutants—linger in the body, says Germaine Louis Buck, PhD, at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She and her colleagues found that a couple's odds of getting pregnant in any given month decreased by about 20 percent when either partner's blood tested for high levels of PCBs and/or their cousin chemicals, which persist in the environment (although PCBs have been banned for decades). Traces of PCBs are nearly everywhere, but a major source is animal fat, where toxins can accumulate. (Beef and fish both contain PCBs, but beef-heavy diets are associated with more abnormal sperm and a 35 percent lower count and concentration. The difference may be that the omega-3 fats in fish are sperm-boosters.)

The lesson: Louis Buck says the best thing to do is to limit exposure by cutting away the fat from meat or fish (how to prepare fish to reduce PCBs) and eat fewer animal products overall. Regardless of diet or exposure, a delay doesn't mean doom: About 80 percent of the couples conceived within a year of trying.

Your gums bleed when you brush.

Do your gums bleed after you brush? Are they red and swollen? Periodontal (gum) disease delays a positive pregnancy test by two months or more, found an Australian study. While women with healthy mouths took an average of five months to conceive, those who had periodontal disease took a little over seven months. Non-Caucasian women who had it took over a year. Swollen gums and deep pockets around the teeth breed bacteria, which enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation—potentially reducing an embryo's chances of implantation. To make matters worse, gum disease in men is linked to poor sperm quality.

The lesson: Brush and floss regularly, and get dental check-ups. Keep up the regimen when you're pregnant; that same bacteria-triggered inflammation is associated with miscarriage, low birth rate and premature birth.

He has a very intimate relationship with his technology.

Among some researchers, there‚Äôs a concern that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) may scramble a man's sperm, with the cell phone being a primary offender. Several studies found a connection between sperm damage and the habit of carrying a cell phone in a pocket or hip belt, near the reproductive organs. Another study targeted that other indispensable EMR-emitting tool: the WiFi-enabled laptop computer. Compared to non-users, men who used laptops on their laps—for four hours with WiFi on—had 25 percent immobile sperm (vs. 14 percent), and 9 percent of the survivors had DNA damage (vs. 3 percent). (In case you're wondering, the researchers controlled for laptop heat, which we all know kills sperm.)

The lesson: Research is ongoing, but to be safe, keep laptops and cell phones away from privates.


Next Story