Anecdotal evidence suggests that more and more couples are facing difficulties in conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy to term, and most Americans have family or friends that have struggled to have a baby.
While exact data are not available, scientists estimate that only around 30% of conceptions result in a live birth, and an even lower percent result in the birth of a child with no genetic or developmental “deficits.”
In this context, the word “deficit” means: (a) a genetic polymorphism, mutation, or epigenetic change that causes, or heightens the risk of health or neurological problems later in life, (b) an observable birth defect, or (c) pre-term delivery, low birthweight, or another factor known to be associated with health or developmental problems.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) Infertility FAQs, “infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant (conceive) after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex.”
Fertility in women naturally declines with age, and is impacted by a myriad of factors such as genetics, current health status, uterine damage, chemical exposures, prescriptive and recreational drug use, and the quality of the sperm in question.
CDC goes on to explain that a successful pregnancy requires several things to happen in the correct order:
- An egg must be released;
- Sperm must fertilize the egg or eggs;
- Fertilized egg(s) must travel through the Fallopian tube into the womb/uterus; and
- Attach (implant) to the inside of the uterus.
A failure to conceive can arise from a problem with any of the above steps. While a critical step in the reproductive process, successful conception is just the beginning of an incredibly complex, nine-month process that entails a miraculous sequence of gene expression and cell division events, as a fertilized egg begins to divide and specialized cells, and then organ systems are created that become a living, breathing child.
- In 2015, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics released an opinion paper warning of the “ubiquitous…threat to healthy human reproduction” posed by toxic environmental chemicals, including pesticides. The Federation calls out the need for “policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals, work to ensure a healthy food system for all, make environmental health part of health care, and champion environmental justice.”