A new study by the National Institutes of Health links sunscreen to male infertility. Benzophenones are used in sunscreens and personal care products and are absorbed by the skin. These chemicals act as endocrine disrupting compounds, as they can interfere with the body's hormones. The recent study showed a 30% reduction in male fertility, leading to a longer time to pregnancy.
An estimated 15.5% of couples in the United States experience infertility, with that number going over 20% for couples over 35.
There are some suggestions that fertility in the US has been declining over the past decades. Reasons include the "modernization theory", or the idea that couples are waiting longer to start their families, often until after 35, which is when fertility noticeably decreases.
Another reason includes environmental exposures. Lead, pesticides, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (such as BPA, pthalates, and other "xenoestrogens"), alter normal hormone functioning and lead to decreased fertility. These environmental toxins may account for the declining levels of testosterone in men, which has been steadily declining 1% per year, which is the same rate of decline seen in sperm production.
Some studies show that despite the decreased sperm production, fertility levels have remained constant. But those numbers are no comfort to the millions of Americans struggling with starting their family. Some factors are uncontrollable. However, some factors, including exposure to environmental toxins, are more easily managed.
For an even more comprehensive list, check this out.
Botanical medicine has been used for centuries for improving fertility. With cutting edge research, studies verify the effectiveness of many of these herbs. An example of this includes an Ayurvedic herb, Withania somnifera, otherwise called ashwaganda. This herb is known traditionally to help with stress by supporting the adrenals (and normalizing the stress hormone "cortisol"), and it has been shown to improve stress and perceived quality of life (WOW!).
Because of its "stress-reducing" properties, ashwaganda may be effective in treating infertility, especially male infertility related to "stress". Treatment with this herb in a clinical study led to decreased stress, improved anti-oxidants and semen quality.
Ashwaganda is only one example of how botanical medicine can be used to increase fertility and to attain a successful pregnancy. Often, with my patients, I combine multiple different herbs into a specific formula for a patient, specifically tailored to that person's situation and cause of infertility.
Individualized medicine is your greatest chance for success.