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Are These Common Chemicals Standing in Your Way of Having a Baby?

Study finds Pthalates may be linked to male fertility problems
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Experts are zeroing in on a new possible reason as to why some women take longer to become pregnant—and it has nothing to do with their bodies. High levels of phthalates found in their partners may be what's actually taking women so long to conceive, according to new research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Phthalates, or hormone-mimicking chemicals, are often found in food packaging, plastics and products ranging from perfume to shampoos. Just like bisphenol A (which you know as BPA), it's been known to disrupt normal hormone system behavior.

For the study, researchers analyzed the urine samples of 500 couples trying to conceive. At the same time, they had each couple keep a journal, and asked them to note when they had sex, when the woman got her period and when they took pregnancy tests.

When all was said and done, researchers found that it didn't matter what the levels of BPA were in each partner's system—they didn't seem to affect fertility either way. But if the man had high levels of phthalates in his body, it took those couples 20 percent longer to get pregnant.

"The delays in pregnancy we saw were comparable to those seen for cigarette smoking, or with obesity," researcher Germaine Buck Louis, the director of population health research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said in a statement.

The findings, which were published in late February, highlight the importance of studying both partners simultaneously when looking to pinpoint fertility hurdles. As Buck Louis noted, "Clearly, in studies of this kind, males matter."

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