As many of those who are trying to conceive know, there are a number of factors that can have an impact on your body’s reproductive functions. Although it can be difficult to avoid many of these factors, being aware of them is an important step towards better reproductive health. I strive to always keep my patients informed about new findings and developments that circulate in the world of reproductive medicine, so below, I’ll walk you through the findings of some new studies about the effects of prenatal exposure to BPA on ovarian function.
What is BPA?
BPA stands for bisphenol A. It is an industrial chemical that has been around since the 1960s, and it is most often used to make plastics and resins. Plastics that contain BPA are commonly used to make canned foods (and their inner linings), water bottles, toiletries, DVDs, eyeglass lens, and other often-used items. The problem with BPA is that it’s difficult to avoid- the main source of exposure is through a person’s diet, because BPA often mixes in with the contents of whatever food is being held in the container it was used to make. Past studies have found that exposure to BPA can have an impact on fertility, and more recent studies have examined this chemical’s effect on ovarian function.
Prenatal BPA Exposure – Recent Studies
Since the beginning of 2019, a number of studies have been done to determine the impact of BPA on ovarian function. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine examined literature about the prenatal impact of BPA, while a study published by Oxford University Press conducted an experiment using female mice that were exposed to BPA. As the prenatal period is a vulnerable time of development, the Boston study found relevant evidence that BPA exposure at this time can have lasting effects on a woman’s reproductive health. The study involving the mice found that the mice exposed to BPA (as well as BPE and BPS) experienced a plethora of reproductive disruptions, including mating difficulties, reduced pregnancy rate, and a higher occurrence of dead pups. The researchers concluded that prenatal exposure to BPA and similar chemicals can have a long term negative impact on fertility.
Why Does Exposure to BPA Affect the Ovaries and Fertility?
The studies I discussed above clearly indicate that BPA has an impact on the ovaries and reproductive function, but why is this the case? Many scientists have labeled BPA as an “ovarian toxicant” because it can interfere with enzymes essential to hormone production. In other studies on monkeys and rodents, researchers found that exposure to this chemical altered follicles and oocytes, which are the germ cells that develop into eggs. It seems that BPA has an impact across all stages of the reproductive cycle, and these studies imply that there could be a connection between exposure to BPA and certain ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or premature ovarian failure.
Recent studies have not only produced implications that BPA exposure can impact a woman’s fertility- it is possible for the fetus to be affected as well. Endocrine disruptors, like those found in BPA, parabens, and phthalates, can affect the germ cells of the fetus, which can cause fertility troubles later in life. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has advised that all pregnant women avoid these substances for this reason, and as some organizations have been advocating for legislation in DC for regulation, positive shifts in the future are very possible. These substances are already regulated for safety in Europe, so my hope is that we will see similar developments in the United States. Strong exposure to BPA has also been linked to hormone-related cancers, so reducing the presence of these substances would be beneficial to everyone. I’ll provide more information on any developments regarding endocrine disruptors as time goes on, so stay tuned.
How Can You Reduce Your BPA Exposure?
Completely eliminating your exposure to BPA can be difficult because of its widespread use, but there are certain steps you can take to limit it as much as possible. Since BPA often seeps into food through the lining of cans, avoiding canned foods when possible is a good place to start. Choosing glass bottles over plastic is an eco-friendly way to avoid BPA and limiting your contact with receipts (which also contain BPA) may be helpful. It is also a good idea to avoid microwaving polycarbonate plastics, because the heat can cause the plastic to break down over time. And of course, always keep an eye out for BPA-free products, which are becoming more and more common.
Part of supporting positive reproductive health is being aware of outside forces that can make conception more difficult. Being informed and making the right choices are great ways to take control of your reproductive health, for the sake of both you and your children. If you have any questions about BPA or other factors that may impact fertility, or if you are having fertility struggles of your own, do not hesitate to contact me. I take pride in my dedication to keeping my patients informed, and I would love to speak with you about your fertility journey and the best next steps for you.