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Is Your Yoga Mat Messing With Your Fertility Treatment?

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Chemical found in yoga mats, furniture found to impact IVF success

Is your yoga mat or upholstered furniture making it harder to get pregnant? According to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, maybe.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that women with higher concentrations of a common flame retardant in their urine had less of a chance of getting pregnant. The chemical organophosphate flame retardants are typically used in polyurethane foam and are found in many products, like baby products, upholstered furniture and yoga and gym mats. This is the first study to look into this link.

More: Knowing When To Draw the Line on Fertility Treatments

PFRs, as these particular flame retardants are abbreviated, were actually introduced as a safer alternative to another flame retardant — PentaBDE — which was phased out more than a decade ago, but has be found to cause hormone disruption in animal studies. Previous studies have shown that PFRs can be released into the air and dust from furniture and other products, affecting indoor environments.

In this study, researchers tested urine samples from 211 women undergoing in vitro fertilization who were enrolled in a larger project attempting to determine how chemicals and lifestyle choices affect reproductive health. Metabolized versions of PFRs were found in the urine of more than 80 percent of the participants, and those with higher concentrations had around a 40 percent less chance of pregnancy and a successful birth.

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"Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free," senior author Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw professor of reproductive physiology and acting chair for the Department of Environmental Health said in a news release.

More research is needed on the impact of these chemicals in everyday household products and on the potential impact of male partners’ exposure to PFRs.

The main takeaway: Women undergoing IVF treatments may want to stay away from flame-retardant products — and it might not be a bad idea for the rest of us, either.

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