Islam encourages Muslim couples to have righteous children. Parenting with the right intentions becomes a form of worship (ibadah) and a way to continue receiving blessings once we have passed. In most Muslim communities, having children is the natural next step once a couple marry and many do welcome children soon after marriage. Infertility however is becoming a growing problem for many couples so the following quote may be something to sit up and take note off:
‘Most couples may have to use assisted reproduction by 2045’.
This startling prediction is by Dr Shanna Swan, professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr Swan has been investigating and studying fertility trends for over 20 years and has written extensively on the subject. It is estimated that around 12-18% of couples are having difficulty conceiving. Male fertility in the West has declined drastically in the last 40 years, with average sperm count thought to have been reduced by 50% in this period.
It is well understood that certain lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on fertility. Stress and sedentary lifestyles play a major role in fertility issues as does consuming alcohol or taking recreational drugs. Smoking, for example, is shown to reduce fertility sperm count by 13-17%.
However, research is uncovering a more insidious problem which most of us are unaware of – endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) are a group of chemicals thought to adversely affect both male and female fertility. Some EDCs occur naturally in food but unfortunately, most of these chemicals are everywhere and thought to be found in 95% of the population. It is thought that over 800 different EDCs can be found in the water we drink, food we consume, air we breath, in the soil and in many processed products. EDCs have been shown in studies to mimic male and female reproductive hormones, testosterone and oestrogen respectively. As a consequence, exposure to EDCs causes imbalance in hormones resulting in natural reproductive cycles going off course. For men and women, EDCs effect has been shown to affect and weaken sperm and egg production negatively including DNA damage, conception becomes more difficult and takes longer, menstrual cycles become abnormal etc. It is also suggested that EDCs can cause menstruation to occur earlier and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Because we are exposed to a number of EDCs at one given time, it is difficult to isolate and identify each EDC to understand its singular effect, however the cumulative effect of EDCs are becoming better understood.
Below are a list of EDCs and where they can be found:
- Bisphenols such as BPA, BPS, BPF: These chemicals are found in many plastic items, in till receipts that have a glossy finish and in the linings of food cans. BPA is oestrogen mimicking and therefore has a far greater impact on female fertility.
- Heavy metals such as aluminium, arsenic, lead and mercury to name a few: These can be found in dental fillings, cooking pans, cigarettes, air pollution etc.
- Parabens: a commonly used synthetic preservative found in food, skincare and cosmetics.
- Phthalates: are esters of phthalic acid and are used to make plastic more flexible. They can be found almost anywhere plastic is soft such as toys, plastic packaging and shoes etc. Phthalates are thought to lower testosterone and sperm count, thus primarily affecting male fertility.
- Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides: mainly found prayed on fruit and vegetables.
Although it may seem like we are submerged in EDCs and doomed towards infertility. The situation is not helpless and there are ways to reduce exposure to EDCs. Look out for the next segment on this topic coming soon.
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