Q-AND-A

Sperm alert


Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.

Q: My husband and I are having a hard time getting pregnant, and I hear everyday products may be damaging to guys' sperm. What's that all about?

— Jennifer C., Phoenix

A: We're sorry that you're struggling to become pregnant. Many factors can interfere with conception. (See our book “YOU: Having a Baby.”) For women, they include problems with ovulation, fibroids and alterations in cervical mucus. For men and women, excessive exercise, a diet laden with saturated fats and/or sugars, obesity, smoking, excess alcohol and especially stress can interfere. So do some environmental chemicals. These include endocrine (hormone) disruptors in personal-care products, cosmetics, fragrances and plastics. Both BPS and BPA in plastics may interfere with hormones that help sperm swim and help sperm find an egg to fertilize. Also identified as trouble-causers: 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) used in sunscreens to block UVB rays; di-n-butylphthalate (DnBP), a known toxin used to make plastics more flexible and found in carpet backings, paints, glue, insect repellents, hairspray and nail polish; and triclosan, in antibacterial soaps and toothpastes. These may inhibit sperm production, alter sperm's swimming style and cause a sort of “premature ejaculation” of an enzyme that helps a sperm fuse with an egg.

There are tests that can look for the source of your fertility problem. And you both may need to make lifestyle adjustments: increasing physical activity; eating a healthier diet with more DHA-omega-3's; not drinking so much or smoking at all; and sleeping more. There also may be physical problems your doctor or a surgeon could treat.

While pursuing those possible solutions, both of you also can try to reduce exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals. Avoid canned foods; never heat food in plastic in the microwave; don't use any plastic items with 3, 6, or 7 on the recycle label. Read all personal-care product labels to avoid phthalates, and stay clear of the other chemicals mentioned above. Good luck, and enjoy the process! A mutually satisfying sexual relationship can make your RealAge six years younger at age 35 and a whopping 16 years younger at age 70.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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