The Chemical Connection

Caution tapeI think we’re all genuinely trying to lead healthier, better lives. I know I try to every day. Some days I’m successful – I buy and cook a wonderful, organic meal for my family, recycle, take a yoga class etc. But, if I’m being honest it’s hard work and there are days that I buy the regular strawberries instead of organic, order in takeout and decide I can hit the gym tomorrow. Nobody’s perfect, right? But my good intentions are there. I started this blog to open up a dialogue about infertility in an effort to help others. In continuation of that objective I feel compelled to discuss a topic that lately has been taking over most of my free thoughts and brain space.

Could toxins and chemicals found in the products we use or in the environment be the cause of your infertility?

I am not an expert and cannot say with 100% certainty that those issues could be what are causing one’s infertility. But there may be merit to the point as there is a prevalence of toxic chemicals in the products our families and we use every day. There are studies (done over the past decades) that find major health issues such as cancer, infertility and learning disabilities are on the rise and the cause of this is partly due to our exposure to toxic chemicals. I have to ask, what is going on here? How can products that we use daily or the food we eat be slowly causing us harm and illness and what can we do about it?

First of all, how did we get here? Allow me to focus on the personal care products industry. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data and this is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry. The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration-the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids each and every day. Due to major loopholes in federal law, cosmetics can be labeled as “natural”, “organic”, ”green” etc. without containing ingredients that accurately match those descriptions. More so, the US has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938! What’s worse is that the US has only banned 11 ingredients and the European Union bans over 1,300!

Additionally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 60,000 products, (in which ingredients were listed) and assessed that 34% of products contained chemicals that were associated with cancer; 45% contained chemicals that associated with reproductive/developmental toxicity; 60% contained estrogenic chemicals –synthetic chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen (For more information see this presentation by Heather White, The Executive Director of Environmental Working Group. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14369/why-beauty-products-are-toxic-what-you-can-do-about-it-heather-white.html)

Something is NOT right here.

So what are we supposed to do? How do we protect our bodies and ourselves? And our children so that perhaps they won’t have the same infertility issues that we have? Or that maybe 1 in 8 of their female friends won’t get breast cancer? For starters we can educate ourselves. We can choose to use only products in which we can read and understand the labels. We can do our part to slowly eliminate the toxic chemicals from our homes. So what are some of these chemicals and how do they relate to infertility?

Let’s start with a list of things to look out for: Phthalates, Parabens, and Triclosan. All of these chemicals are what the science community refers to as Endocrine disruptors – Chemicals that are used in everyday products that can affect the body’s development, growth and hormone balance by mimicking, blocking or disrupting the body’s natural hormones. Allow me to go a bit deeper into what each of these chemicals are all about and why we should avoid them.

First off: Phthalates & Parabens. Phthalates and Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Phthalates keep hairsprays sticky and bacteria and fungus out of things like nail polish and perfume. Parabens are antimicrobial and antifungal which makes them an ideal preservative in so many personal care products. Sometimes Pthalates aren’t listed on labels but can lurk under the non-specific ingredient “fragrance.”

Without getting into too much scientific data that is beyond my pay grade, there are many studies by reputable organizations that have found exposure to phthalates may harm the reproductive system and affect development. Check out the following sites and studies for more specific data and findings: CDC (The Centers for Disease Control), Healthy Child Healthy World and Breast Cancer Fund.

Next up: Triclosan. Triclosan is the active ingredient in many brands of hand-sanitizers, some gingivitis-fighting toothpastes and an estimated 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes. The National Resources Defense Council states that animal studies have shown both of these chemicals can interfere with hormones critical for normal development and function of the brain and reproductive system.

To me, this is a lot of scary information. What are we supposed to do? Live under a rock and stop showering? Not exactly. So what am I doing to keep my family and myself safe? Well, for starters I have transitioned our personal care products to non-toxic brands. I personally started using Beautycounter*, a brand that is completely transparent about what ingredients they use and vow to never use over 1,500 chemicals. My kids now bathe with Beautycounter’s kids line. I check EWG’s app, “Skin Deep” before buying cleaning products for my home. (It’s actually quite addicting to scan everything I see.) I do my best to buy organic, non-GMO food. I am not perfect and am just trying to do my part. I’m educating myself (in fact the more I learn the scarier the info gets) and trying to “put it out there” for others. I am trying to do what I can and change our family’s lifestyle to ensure that we can feel good about what we eat and use on our bodies … All in an effort to be healthy and happy! Every little bit counts.

* If you’re interested in Beautycounter, a brand that has such chic and amazing products (that actually work) all while being committed to such a stringent screening of ingredients please contact me or shop at sararaber.beautycounter.com.

 

Are you crazy … no, I’m just on IVF meds

images v2Going through infertility can make you feel like you’re going crazy – the emotional rollercoaster, the stress (medical, financial etc.) and of course the meds! Anyone who has ever gone through any form of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) such as IVF or IUI knows what I’m talking about. But a recent article opens up the dialogue stating that all the stress and medication issues may not be the fault of your IVF cycle.

So I was recently surfing the web and on Yahoo I came across an article by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy,, “5 Myths About IVF You Need To Stop Believing.” The article focused on Dr. Lisa Hasty, a reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist and her take on debunking 5 common beliefs about IVF medication. It tackles the idea of whether or not the infertility meds are really to blame for all your erratic behavior and stress. Per the article, a new study in Oxford’s journal Human Reproduction discredits the theory that the drugs are to blame and explains that women who exhibit neurotic tendencies before treatment will maintain that state during treatment, and those who do not, will not.

Another way to put it … no it’s not the Clomid (or insert drug of your choice here: Menopur, Gonal-F etc), it is you! WTF?!?! Continue Reading

What I Am Thankful For This Year

what-if-today-we-were-just-grateful-for-everythingIt’s that time of year … the beginning of the holiday season. Therefore it’s time for me to put together my “What I Am Thankful For This Year”; The 2014 version.

Here it goes:

  1. My Family. Yes it’s cliché but I really wouldn’t be the person I am without my family. This is true for the members that I picked (hooray for my husband), those that picked me (again, hooray for my husband), those that birthed me and the ones that I didn’t have a choice in the matter (shout out to all my siblings and in-laws!). The love and support that continuously flows is amazing and I am eternally grateful.
  1. My infertility. I know this sounds super crazy … who would be grateful to be labeled “infertile”? Well because of it I’ve been introduced to many amazing things and people that I otherwise may not have encountered in my life. My infertility has given me something to be passionate about and become an advocate in my own way. It has given me strength in ways I didn’t think I had, like getting back up after reaching rock bottom only to find out that this shit has no bottom. It has given me courage to speak up and speak out, which leads me to my next point …
  1. Wow! My blog just turned 1! I can’t believe it! What started out as a “let me just put it out there and see” project has turned into my personal passionate cause and continues to teach me things along the way. I never would have thought that I a) could, or would, be a blogger; b) people would read it (and hopefully laugh); and c) I would help people along the way. To you out there who are reading this I am grateful for your support.
  1. Last but certainly not least, my kids. Literally the fruit of my labor (not just labor as in birth, but all the work it took to get them). I would be nothing without them. They make me laugh and cry … sometimes at the same time. I love our dance parties. I love our group hugs. I love that we dress up as superheroes because it’s a Tuesday. (In turn, I am thankful that DC Comics created Wonder Woman.) I love seeing them love each other and me. I am so lucky that these two guys need me so much … I am grateful for being needed. I am grateful I get to watch them grow up … every day.

I hope you can find something or someone to be grateful for this season. Make sure you tell them how you feel … everyone needs a little extra hug now and again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The Chemical Connection-AN UPDATE

 

Caution tapeWait, what? Chemicals in sunblock may be causing fertility problems? And here I thought I was doing a good thing by making my husband wear sunblock all those years🙂 Who knows if that was an issue for us, but thought this recent article and study by National Institutes of Health was worth a read.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/14/health/sunblock-fertility-problems/index.html?hpt=he_t2

 

And with that I thought it was time to re-publish my post, The Chemical Connection. Enjoy!

 

 

I think we’re all genuinely trying to lead healthier, better lives. I know I try to every day. Some days I’m successful – I buy and cook a wonderful, organic meal for my family, recycle, take a yoga class etc. But, if I’m being honest it’s hard work and there are days that I buy the regular strawberries instead of organic, order in takeout and decide I can hit the gym tomorrow. Nobody’s perfect, right? But my good intentions are there. I started this blog to open up a dialogue about infertility in an effort to help others. In continuation of that objective I feel compelled to discuss a topic that lately has been taking over most of my free thoughts and brain space.

Could toxins and chemicals found in the products we use or in the environment be the cause of your infertility?

I am not an expert and cannot say with 100% certainty that those issues could be what are causing one’s infertility. But there may be merit to the point as there is a prevalence of toxic chemicals in the products our families and we use every day. There are studies (done over the past decades) that find major health issues such as cancer, infertility and learning disabilities are on the rise and the cause of this is partly due to our exposure to toxic chemicals. I have to ask, what is going on here? How can products that we use daily or the food we eat be slowly causing us harm and illness and what can we do about it?

First of all, how did we get here? Allow me to focus on the personal care products industry. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data and this is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry. The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration-the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids each and every day. Due to major loopholes in federal law, cosmetics can be labeled as “natural”, “organic”, ”green” etc. without containing ingredients that accurately match those descriptions. More so, the US has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938! What’s worse is that the US has only banned 11 ingredients and the European Union bans over 1,300!

Additionally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 60,000 products, (in which ingredients were listed) and assessed that 34% of products contained chemicals that were associated with cancer; 45% contained chemicals that associated with reproductive/developmental toxicity; 60% contained estrogenic chemicals –synthetic chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen (For more information see this presentation by Heather White, The Executive Director of Environmental Working Group. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14369/why-beauty-products-are-toxic-what-you-can-do-about-it-heather-white.html)

Something is NOT right here.

So what are we supposed to do? How do we protect our bodies and ourselves? And our children so that perhaps they won’t have the same infertility issues that we have? Or that maybe 1 in 8 of their female friends won’t get breast cancer? For starters we can educate ourselves. We can choose to use only products in which we can read and understand the labels. We can do our part to slowly eliminate the toxic chemicals from our homes. So what are some of these chemicals and how do they relate to infertility?

Let’s start with a list of things to look out for: Phthalates, Parabens, and Triclosan. All of these chemicals are what the science community refers to as Endocrine disruptors – Chemicals that are used in everyday products that can affect the body’s development, growth and hormone balance by mimicking, blocking or disrupting the body’s natural hormones. Allow me to go a bit deeper into what each of these chemicals are all about and why we should avoid them.

First off: Phthalates & Parabens. Phthalates and Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Phthalates keep hairsprays sticky and bacteria and fungus out of things like nail polish and perfume. Parabens are antimicrobial and antifungal which makes them an ideal preservative in so many personal care products. Sometimes Pthalates aren’t listed on labels but can lurk under the non-specific ingredient “fragrance.”

Without getting into too much scientific data that is beyond my pay grade, there are many studies by reputable organizations that have found exposure to phthalates may harm the reproductive system and affect development. Check out the following sites and studies for more specific data and findings: CDC (The Centers for Disease Control), Healthy Child Healthy World and Breast Cancer Fund.

Next up: Triclosan. Triclosan is the active ingredient in many brands of hand-sanitizers, some gingivitis-fighting toothpastes and an estimated 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes. The National Resources Defense Council states that animal studies have shown both of these chemicals can interfere with hormones critical for normal development and function of the brain and reproductive system.

To me, this is a lot of scary information. What are we supposed to do? Live under a rock and stop showering? Not exactly. So what am I doing to keep my family and myself safe? Well, for starters I have transitioned our personal care products to non-toxic brands. I personally started using Beautycounter*, a brand that is completely transparent about what ingredients they use and vow to never use over 1,500 chemicals. My kids now bathe with Beautycounter’s kids line. I check EWG’s app, “Skin Deep” before buying cleaning products for my home. (It’s actually quite addicting to scan everything I see.) I do my best to buy organic, non-GMO food. I am not perfect and am just trying to do my part. I’m educating myself (in fact the more I learn the scarier the info gets) and trying to “put it out there” for others. I am trying to do what I can and change our family’s lifestyle to ensure that we can feel good about what we eat and use on our bodies … All in an effort to be healthy and happy! Every little bit counts.

* If you’re interested in Beautycounter, a brand that has such chic and amazing products (that actually work) all while being committed to such a stringent screening of ingredients please contact me or shop at sararaber.beautycounter.com.

 

Ice, Ice … Baby?

bigstock-Boiled-Or-Raw-Egg-8015047

Science is amazing. Without it I am not sure I would be able to call myself a mom. Due to breakthroughs in science and medicine, women now have lots of choices and opportunities when it comes to reproduction. Decades ago women may have been labeled as barren and left with not many choices when it came to the idea of building a family. Just as the women’s rights movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s gave women a voice for equality both in the workplace and within society, the medical breakthroughs at that time (everything from Roe v. Wade, the birth control pill and the introduction of IVF) have given women another level of freedom filled with reproductive rights and choices.

Fast-forward to 2014 . . . The procedure of Oocyte Cryopreservation, otherwise known as egg freezing has been around for a few decades – Really ever since the introduction of IVF. So how does egg freezing work? Well I checked with the trusted source, Wikipedia, and the process goes like this:

The egg retrieval process for oocyte cryopreservation is the same as that for in vitro fertilization.This includes one to several weeks of hormone injections that stimulate ovaries to ripen multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, a medication to trigger ovulation is given and the eggs are removed from the body using an ultrasound-guided needle through the vagina. The procedure is usually conducted under sedation. The eggs are immediately frozen.

But egg freezing is getting lots of media buzz lately. Yes, due to the awesome world of science, women now have the opportunity to press pause on their life’s playlist. In fact in 2012 the ASRM, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, lifted the experimental label off of egg freezing, which only added to the popularity of this procedure. That is, women can now freeze their eggs during the height of their childbearing age if they are not ready to have a child. While I don’t profess to be a mind reader, women may decide to enter this process for reasons that may include she has not yet met her mate and she does not want to have a child alone; or she is simply not ready to have a child at this point in her life – whether due to her career or other life circumstances.

In reading the news, it has become apparent that egg freezing is becoming more and more popular. Just like more women are seeking treatment for infertility, more women are freezing eggs and, O.M.G., they are talking about it! There are even “Egg Freezing Parties.” For example, the company Eggbanxx hosts events that “combine fertility doctors, fertility drug information, patient testimonials, Q&A sessions and financing information with cocktails!”  A recent party in NYC was called “Let’s Chill”. I envision this event to be a cross between speed dating and a medical conference.

And to add to the recent hype and media buzz, now the tech giants Facebook and Apple have announced that they will add insurance coverage for egg freezing to their list of great perks. At Facebook’s campus office you can literally ride your bike to the on site dentist for an annual cleaning, drop off your dry cleaning and then make an appointment at the fertility clinic for your egg freezing process all under the name of corporate benefits. And I thought my old job was great because benefits included a discount on shoes and bags, and summer Fridays.

With this announcement of course came the various responses – some positive, some negative, some applauding these companies, some crucifying them. So is it a great perk?  Well the national average cost of egg freezing is $13,000, so having insurance coverage will help lots of women from a financial standpoint. (Most women need at least two rounds of procedures to get enough eggs to freeze plus the cost of storage.) But not to kill the excitement buzz, I do have to point something out. Egg freezing isn’t a 100% guarantee. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, when a woman age 38 or younger freezes her eggs, the success rate of one frozen egg yielding a baby is between 2 and 12 percent.  As women get older, the pregnancy rate per frozen egg drops even further.

Here’s what I think. Egg freezing isn’t an insurance policy but rather an assurance policy. It’s given women peace of mind that if their family planning hasn’t turned out exactly as they planned, they have an option to stop the biological clock. I don’t look at the recent Facebook and Apple insurance changes as some evil conspiracy to hold women back from having children and relegate them to being slaves to their jobs. Nor is it just another amazing perk from tech companies. Rather this is a great step in the right direction for hopefully major change as it relates to women and basic family care. Perhaps this is a “baby” step (pun intended) towards a day in the near future that all IVF and other ART procedures are covered by insurance.  (It should be noted that not all insurance policies cover IVF and other fertility procedures. Every insurance company is different and it also differs by state. Fertility treatments (inclusive of egg freezing) is considered a luxury-that is the people are otherwise healthy and the health issue isn’t life-threatening) Because at the end of the day, until there are major changes in the way women are treated at work, the work life balance options out there, paid maternity leave, etc … that’s when the