It’s almost automatic to remind expectant moms to steer clear of using substances that can be harmful to their babies, but people usually don’t think the same for those who are trying to conceive, or TTC. If there isn’t a baby yet, do the same rules apply?
The answer is yes. Think of it as the best preparation to ensure that a healthy baby is formed and nurtured in the womb. The difference is, while during pregnancy there is a strict list for would-be parents to follow, there is only a general guide for TTC folks to stick to. In particular, there are some substances that fall under endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or hormone-disrupting chemicals that could affect female and male reproductive health. In the world today, items that contain these hormone-disrupting chemicals are everywhere so it’s best to be aware of what these are.
To help out, here are some of the most common ingredients or chemicals to look out for in labels when trying to conceive, and ways to lessen using them.
Bisphenols belong to the main EDCs that can affect reproductive health. Many are familiar with Bisphenol A or BPA’s wide presence in plastic products, but it can also be found in the linings of cans. Surprisingly, BPA can also be found in receipts to give it that glossy sheen!
Thankfully, there are ways to still lessen, if not totally avoid exposure to this chemical. The best way is to limit eating processed food since most pre-packed meals come in plastic containers or cans. If there is a need to reheat food kept in plastic or takeout containers, make sure to transfer it into a glass dish first.
Drinking from glass or stainless steel containers is another way. Lastly, don’t hold on to receipts or keep them in your wallet.
Phthalates are also present in plastics but they’re commonly found in personal care products to give them their fragrance. While totally avoiding scented products can prove difficult and daunting, a way to lessen exposure is to choose beauty products or even household products that are fragrance-free.
Many people have become familiar with parabens, thanks to the surge of “clean” beauty and household products in the market. Parabens are used to make personal care products more long-lasting, but it is also a hormone-disrupting chemical. If you’re trying to conceive, it would be a good time to practice looking the ingredients up in shampoos, lotions, and other products. Try to avoid products that list any kind of paraben in them, such as methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, etc.
Although not a hormone-disrupting chemical, retinol and retinoids are a major no-no when trying to conceive. Derived from Vitamin A, retinol is an ingredient commonly found in skincare and anti-aging products. While it can be miraculous for the skin, this ingredient can have a bad effect on developing embryos and fetuses.
To be on the safe side, as soon as you decide to fully embrace plans of getting pregnant, it’s time to ditch any oral or topical products that contain retinoids.
Salicylic acid is one of the most common treatments for acne, but it’s something that should also be cut out when you’ve decided to conceive. It’s a skincare ingredient that could pose a risk to the fetus when absorbed into the bloodstream. Though it can be used sparingly with very low concentration for those who are still TTC, try to already look for alternatives. Other acids, such as azelaic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid can be better options.
The list could go on and on and you might feel as if your every movement is limited because of how present these chemicals are in the environment. It’s not a perfect world anyway. It may be difficult, but what may help is keeping in mind your and your partner’s health first and foremost. By prioritizing health and also limiting your usage of synthetic materials, you are already creating a better body and environment for the next generation.
And if you do slip, give yourself grace. Remember to work for the long term, and remember your goal of providing a nourishing but well-balanced space for your potential baby.
- Elizabeth Tenety, The Top 10 Toxins & Chemicals to Avoid While Trying to Get Pregnant, November 2016
- Gabby Shacknai, Can I Use Salicylic Acid While Pregnant?, September 2022
- The Fertility Society of Australia, How to Avoid Chemicals that Can Reduce Fertility
- This Chemical Can Impair Fertility, But It’s Hard to Avoid, August 2020