If you haven't already done so you may want to add parabens to your list of toxic chemicals to avoid while trying to conceive. Parabens may lower embryo quality and decrease ovarian reserve according to a two preliminary studies published fall 2011.
Parabens are preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth in products; butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben are all forms of parabens that are widely used in the USA especially in personal care products. If you read your labels you can find parabens in shaving cream, make-up remover, makeup, moisturizers, lotions and shampoos and conditioners.
Parabens is known to be an estrogenic chemical that is of concern in breast cancer, pregnancy and female fertility, fortunately a growing number of companies are now making clearly labelled parabens-free products.
In the first of these studies (1) one hundred and ninety three IVF cycles were analyzed, increased levels of propyl parabens were associated with significantly 'poorer day three embryo quality' compared to women with lower parabens levels. The researchers of this study concluded that:
"Increased urinary MP (methyl parabens) and PP (propyl parabens) were associated with increased incidence of poor embryo quality."
"Further studies are needed to explore this and other reproductive outcomes in relation to parabens."
A second 2011 study on parabens from Harvard Medical School investigated the relationship between paraben levels in urine and ovarian reserve. Researchers measured FSH, performed an antral follicle count (via ultrasound) and calculated ovarian volume - all measures of ovarian reserve - in one hundred and eighty two women at a fertility center. They also measured the levels of parabens (butylparaben-BP and propylparaben-PP) in the women's urine samples. The study concluded that:
"There was suggestive evidence for an association between PP (propylparabens) and higher day 3 FSH, and lower AFC(antral follicle counts)."
While both of these studies are preliminary it makes sense to take steps to avoid parabens containing products if you are trying to conceive - or are pregnant - until more is known about the effects of this estrogen mimic on fertility and pregnancy.
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Fertility and Sterility Vol. 96, Issue 3, 2011 Supplement, 1. P-158 Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Fertility and Sterility Vol. 96, Issue 3, 2011 Supplement, P-307 Wednesday, October 19, 2011. THE ASSOCIATION OF URINARY PARABEN CONCENTRATIONS
WITH MEASURES OF OVARIAN RESERVE AMONG PATIENTS
FROM A FERTILITY CENTER. K. W. Smith, I. Dimitriadis, S. Ehrlich,
J. Ford, K. F. Berry, I. Souter. Environmental Health, Harvard School of Pub-
lic Health, Boston, MA; Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Biology,
Massachusetts General Hospital - Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Ob-
stetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA.