how chemicals affect sperm

how chemicals affect sperm

Many of you are here because you want to become Mothers or Fathers. All of you will have had an interest in this as you may have had problems conceiving. For some, the journey down the road to parenthood is easy. But for others, conception can be an immensely challenging process for both body and mind.

The natural approach to treating infertility looks the at the root causes of infertility, by addressing all body systems, rather than just focusing solely on the reproductive system.
I’ve talked a lot about diet so far and things we have more control over. Some things like environmental toxins we have less control over, however we can make some choices about most of these issues once we know what we are dealing with.

A recent report in the UK from the Royal College of Gynaecologists confirmed many of the concerns I have as a nutritionist around limiting your chemical exposure during pregnancy. The truth is this journey should really start before conception instead of the advice given of which chemicals to avoid during pregnancy.

I often refer to environmental toxins with clients as the silent accumulators as they can be responsible for sub fertility. Accumulated toxins from our diet or environment can build up over time and unfortunately, they will stop nutrients from getting to a woman’s reproductive organs and interfere with sperm health.

According to Natural Health Concepts, “More than 80,000 chemicals permitted have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment. Under the current law, it is almost impossible to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects”.


We absorb almost 60% of what we put on our skin and if we take just a quick snapshot of the chemical bath we are exposed to just in body care, it is quite easy to rack up an impressive chemical count within hours of waking. By the time we eventually go to bed, we will be exposed to many hundreds of chemicals just in one area such as body care.

Many couples have unexplained infertility and cleaning up their exposure to chemicals is one component of an overall plan and used in conjunction with others will help them become more fertile. Everyone has a different physiology so as a rule I always recommend an overhaul of body, home and lifestyle.

Exposure to chemicals used to preserve lotions and potions heavy metals, radiation, and toxic chemicals in some foods, drugs and other products can damage DNA and can influence our gene structure and expression.

Here are a few things to help you clean up your act in regards to chemicals prior to conception:

1. Minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals

Once pregnant exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) both in utero and neonatally may dramatically affect the growing child. There appears to be less stringent controls on them as there are for medicines. Consequently, poisonous chemicals end up circulating in our environment, food supply, air and water.
Heavy metals and environmental pollution can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects. These include:
Ovotoxicants: which can disrupt or even stop ovulation.
Endocrine disruptors: Which can interfere with hormone function and cause endometriosis and PCOS.
Phthalates: in plastic food containers, cling film, bags, medical supplies, vinyl flooring and packaging at high levels have been associated with miscarriage and testicular toxicity. At low levels they disrupt hormonal balance.
VCH chemicals: used in rubber tires, plastics and pesticides.
PAH: released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar

Men are also affected

Studies confirm male sperm counts are declining, and environmental factors, such as pesticides, exogenous oestrogens (Xenoestrogens), and heavy metals may negatively impact spermatogenesis (formation of sperm).
Sperm seems to be more sensitive to heavy metals and industrial pollutants than Ova. Many sperm abnormalities have been linked to these toxins. The majority of these chemicals can be found in the atmosphere, on the ground in cities and in the waterways.

They have also been termed “reprotoxicants” for their negative effects on sperm development and maturation. Shanna Swan who was involved in the sperm study published in 2017 has written a great book looking at chemicals as the main reason for declining sperm health.  

What can we do about this – The top 7 environmental toxins to avoid

Pesticides: found on non-organic fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and unfiltered tap water
Formaldehyde: found in air fresheners, deodorants, floor polish, upholstery cleaners
Bisphenols: found in plastic containers and can leach into food and water.
Organic solvents: petroleum based liquids found in household products, electronics, car repair, health care, photography, agriculture, printing, construction and cosmetics and many more
Parabens used in common shampoos, conditioners and body care items.
Dry-cleaning chemicals
Paint fumes
Occasional exposure to one or the other toxic chemical is not of concern. What is of concern is accumulation of these chemicals over a long period.

2. Water

Our waterways are constantly being polluted by industrial waste and by-products, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides and herbicides and commercial cleaning products.
How to minimise this = use a filtration system
Buy a filtration water system that filters particles smaller than 1 micron (this will filter out the drugs as well as heavy metals). Use the filter in your shower and your kitchen. Shower steam contains the same chemicals, which you can end up inhaling and can be absorbed through your skin.


It can be difficult to totally banish chemicals from our life, as after all we do live in a modern society; however we can make a big dent on our chemical exposure by:

1. Minimising and switching to natural products for body hair and teeth
2. Making sure the majority of your food is chemical free
3. Not obsessing about using plug in air filters and using harmful chemicals to clean your house

4. Filtering your water with a really good filtration system

sperm morphology – can the shape really hinder fertility?

sperm morphology – can the shape really hinder fertility?

Abnormalities in shape make it more difficult for sperm to penetrate and fertilize an egg. However this is not impossible and in my clinic I have seen many people go on to have a healthy pregnancy with 4% or lower morphology.

If there has been a morphology issue at an early stage before working together from last years test –  one of the next things I suggest is a DNA fragmentation test 

In my experience this seems to be the largest anomaly in most the sperm tests I see. And in my opinion relates to physical and environmental reasons.

The sperm shape it vital to a successful pregnancy. Often if there are zero morphologies this can be down to an illness, virus and heating the testicles too much, or chemical exposure Please read the ground breaking book by Dr Shanna Swan ‘ Count down’ about chemicals that can affect sperm if this is the case as there are some changes that need to happen on an environmental level taking out everyday chemicals. When you take these things out of the equation things may improve.  Also there is a blog I have written about this for more information here. ( link to blog on chemicals) 

Taking out the things suggested below will help this immensely

Heating the testicles is a sure way to mutate sperm so no lycra pants, saunas or steam rooms and cycling and sitting for long periods of time can boil thing a bit!

Things we can do to improve the shape of sperm:

  • Reduce caffeine
  • Reducing Alcohol
  • Taking out Tobacco and marijuana 
  • Maintaining some form of exercise three times weekly as obesity reduces chances of well functioning sperm


Diet wise these things can help

Vitamin C – studies looking at increasing fruit and veg containing vitamin C as well as vitamin E two key antioxidants helps to boost morphology

CoQ10 – works at an energy and mitochondrial levels so will also improve motility and energy of sperm 

Lycopene- used alongside zinc and folate helped improve semen parameters and pregnancy as well as reduce oxidative stress 


A marine pine bark and full of antioxidant possibility has helped not only with morphology but all parameters and also erectile issues 

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