Can air pollution cause infertility in women? How toxic air takes a toll on women’s reproductive health
How toxic air takes a toll on women’s reproductive health :From disrupting menstrual cycle to causing infertility, pollution can have a range of adverse effects on reproductive processes of women.
Amid rising air pollution and worsening AQI in Delhi NCR and surrounding areas, health experts have advised people to avoid exposure to toxic air. Air pollution can have both short term and long-term impact on our health. From headache, dizziness, nausea to pneumonia, bronchitis, and even cancer, pollution can wreak havoc on your health. Air contaminants like carbon monoxide, lead, particle pollution, nitrogen oxides can disrupt body functions and cause a number of disorders.
Apart from its many dangerous manifestations, air pollution can also impact women’s fertility and reproductive health. Research shows about pollution’s worrying impact on women’s health. From disrupting menstrual cycle and causing hormone imbalance, pollution can have a range of adverse effects on reproductive processes of ladies.
“Although the effects of lifestyle and genetic variables on reproductive health have long been researched, environmental issues such air pollution, organic pollutants, and chemicals that affect hormones are also receiving more attention. Research has shown that there is a worrying correlation between air pollution, fertility issues and reproductive health. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report states that one in six people worldwide will experience difficulties becoming pregnant at some point in their lives. A number of air contaminants, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), have been linked to hormone imbalances. These pollutants may disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and have the potential to interfere with hormone activity which would be detrimental to reproductive processes,” says Dr Manju Gupta, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital.
How pollutants may impact women’s fertility
“Pollutants contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which can alter the production, control, and release of reproductive hormones in women. This can lead to ovulatory dysfunction, lower fertility, and irregularities in the menstrual cycle. Furthermore, the quality of eggs is negatively impacted by these contaminants, which makes conception more difficult. The hazardous compounds present in the air can penetrate the placenta, which could result in negative consequences and issues for both the developing foetus and the mother,” says Dr Gupta.
Dr Soumya Shetty, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF, Chembur, Mumbai shares impact of pollution on women’s reproductive health:
1. Fertility issues: Air pollution, primarily due to exposure to particulate matter and harmful gases, can lead to reduced fertility. Studies have shown that women exposed to high levels of air pollutants are more likely to experience difficulties in conceiving.
2. Pregnancy complications: Pollution can increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues. Pollutants like lead and mercury can affect the developing foetus, leading to long-term health problems.
3. Infant mortality: High levels of pollution are associated with higher infant mortality rates. Pollutants can cause respiratory issues in infants and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
4. Hormonal disruption: Many pollutants contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can interfere with women’s hormonal balance. This disruption can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and other reproductive disorders.
5. Cancer risk: Exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals, can increase the risk of reproductive cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer. These conditions are more prevalent among women exposed to pollution.
6. Menstrual health: Environmental pollution, particularly water pollution, can affect women’s access to clean water for personal hygiene during menstruation, increasing the risk of infections and complications.
7. Mental health impact: The stress and anxiety associated with the knowledge of environmental pollution’s impact on reproductive health can also have indirect consequences on women’s mental well-being.
8. Socio-economic factors: Women in lower-income communities are often more exposed to pollution due to their living conditions and lack of access to healthcare. This further exacerbates the impact on their reproductive health.