African American Women environmental toxins and the connection with your infertility

Are you familiar with second infertility? It accounts for 50% of infertility cases.

Infertility isn’t always spoken on,  because  many feel embarrassed and it’s personal. Social media is full of pregnancy announcements, gender reveals and birthday celebrations and to tell the world that you no longer will be doing those things, it is heartbreaking. It’s hard to be excited and congratulating others when for that very thing, you have been stripped of.
5 times I have carried and lost a baby, a piece of me. 

Black women are 2xs more likely to experience fertility problem- due to our toxic exposures, lack of vitamin D and more. We also have an even higher rate of powering through and not seeking care- mentally emotionally or physically.

Having SLE I am also at a higher risk of infertility.

With Brianna and AJ I also developed Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)-a liver disorder  meant my body produced to much of the pregnancy hormone, my bile flow was affected and caused itching that couldn’t be reached, along with premature labor and other things.

I had twice a week ultrasounds, with Brianna I spent 6 weeks straight in the hospital, with AJ it was in and out and painful weekly shots in my arms. Lots of tears, fear and pretending. Lots of alone time in my thoughts.

There aren’t many situations in life, like pregnancy, that truly help you understand that you are not the one in control. Every baby bump, every cry and every happy couple can make you feel insecure. Like you can’t do what your body is designed to do. I don’t know how to explain it except for feeling like I had a note on my forehead that said “probably not.”

Some people can’t have kids and YES I am grateful but the pain was awful, graphic and heartbreaking. It’s hard to know whether the physical pain alone is what hurt so much or if it was the emotions tied to each cramp that made it almost unbearable. There are moments in life you never forget.
I’m not sharing our story so that you will feel sorry for us. I’m sharing our story because I know I am not a failure as a woman or as a mom. I’m sharing this because writing about it has been a therapeutic way for me to grieve. I share my story because I know that there are people who go through this whole experience in silence. I share this because other people have shared their stories with me personally or on social media and while it is heartbreaking to know how many people have been through it, their stories helped me cope with my own. So thank you!
With it being infertility week I felt compelled to share this story and how environmental toxins can be contributing to your fertility struggles.

What are the most common causes of infertility in women?

While black women are twice as likely as white women to suffer from infertility, studies show, they only seek help for it about half as much. Black women don’t talk about it in my opinion because may lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame, despite it sometimes being out of a woman’s control no matter their race. Since slavery it’s been said black woman are more fertile than white women and it’s just not true. Black women then may feel inferior, so there aren’t discussions being had. Think about it, do you ever remember your mom or grandma or aunt talking about it? My aunt did because she wanted us to be aware of our genetics. My grandma didn’t, my mom definitely didn’t.
As black women we have something to prove to each other, our families and even perfect strangers. So we then hold off to further our career, and every time we have a relationship that doesn’t result in marriage and children there must be something wrong, not realizing there may be something wrong or we aren’t there yet and then we fear, what if I’m to old or to late? One of my favorite parts about working in functional nutrition is that I get to take a deeper dive into the root causes of health issues. Fertility is something that is so interconnected to every system in the body, that we sometimes forget that something that may seem totally unrelated, could actually be the root of everything else.

What are some preexisting conditions that affect reproductive health?

So this isn’t a risk factor but it should trigger a few alarms- women in their 30s with type O blood type, have shown to have ovaries that appear to be older than they are. 

Another is lack of vitamin D as it plays several crucial supporting roles. It’s a steroid hormone, it stimulates and balances sex hormones And in IVF studies, low vitamin D is a predictor of failure, while sufficient levels are associated with a four-times higher success rate. 

BPAs (this means water bottles labeled with a 3,6 or 7, some canned tomatoes, sex toys, touching to many cash register receipts) and even frequently noticing your gums are bleeding  

The biggest thing that’s overlooked is gut health. without a healthy microbiome, estrogen metabolism and function becomes impaired and can lead to a number of health consequences including endometriosis, PCOS, and infertility to name a few.

  • Energy levels
  • Mood, stress and brain health
  • Digestive health
  • Immune function
  • Skin health
  • Inflammation
  • Weight
  • Hormones- Hormone balance is crucial if you want to conceive and gut health is super important. There’s an enzyme in your large intestine and it’s responsible for unpacking estrogen and allowing to it be re-circulated and re-absorbed in the body. Estrogen is a hormone that the body makes, uses and then needs to get rid of. It goes through three phases of detoxification to be able to remove it from the body. The last step in the process is controlled by the gut microbiome. When you have high levels of this enzyme, it’s usually a sign that you likely have excess estrogen in your body (estrogen dominance) and may have even experienced some of these symptoms, like menstrual cycle problems, painful periods, heavy bleeding, etc. When our bodies can’t eliminate excess estrogen through the GI tract it actually impairs fertility because it throws off the ratio between estrogen and progesterone, and ultimately causes a higher risk for miscarriage. Any type of imbalance prior to pregnancy is also going to worsen during pregnancy, so it’s a good idea to work on your gut health prior to conceiving.

Does lifestyle affect fertility? and/or the success of conceiving?
Yes excessive alcohol, smoking, obesity, stress, too much body fat, poor eating habits, environmental products that we use or come into contact with daily, and poor gut health can all affect your chances on conceiving. For instance excessive stress can affect the function of your glands that regulate the hormones that actually tells the ovaries to release eggs. When considering someone’s lifestyle you also have to realize that our homes are human incubators and when we use things that cause damage to our lungs, air quality, skin, brain cells etc it will affect our guts too. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and since it is porous, it absorbs whatever you put on it… If the products you use contain harmful ingredients such as harsh, toxic chemicals, colors, and synthetic fragrances, those ingredients make their way into your body, your blood and lymphatic system. This can include your lotions, body washes, shampoos, chapstick, laundry items, candles, cleaning supplies and more. Using these things once a week in your home is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years. In the USA we are green washed and treated like crap, I say this because since ww2 the US has used over 80,000 chemicals have been added to products we need to use daily. There are 1328 chemicals that Europe has banned in just cosmetics, while the US has banned 11 of those. It is also legal to withhold ingredients on labels in the US but they do run the risk of high lawsuit payouts if caught.

Women are often unaware of signs and symptoms of a reproductive health condition, what are ways we can become more aware of our body and signs?
Stop being afraid to talk about it, or ask questions. Don’t back down when talking to a doctor and let them brush you off. Know your body it’s always talking to us, we have thresholds for the things we can tolerate. Gaining weight suddenly, migraines, cramps, bleeding, itching, burning, pain, heartburn, mood swings, bloating, utis, heat flashes, inflammation… are symptoms of a problem. We have to pay attention and realize we are our only advocates.

Myth busters

Fertility is a women’s issue?
No men are found to be solely responsible for 20-30% of infertility cases and contribute to 50% of cases overall.

Conception is easy after the first child?
No if you are over 35, a man with low sperm count, you have PCOS, are overweight, drink to much or smoke, live in a toxic environment, high stress levels, unhealthy gut… you can struggle.

Women only become infertile with age?
No age is a big thing however it’s not the only factor

Does having an abortion affect your ability to conceive?
For most it won’t cause infertility however it does increase your chances for infections and not having a normal pregnancy.

If you miscarry you will not being able to conceive again?
False you need to understand why you miscarried and for some you won’t know and as painful as it is, you have to take a look at your overall health and environment.

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