Xenoestrogens: Why You Need to Avoid Them if You Want to Get Pregnant

...And even if you don't want to get pregnant.

 Artwork by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

Artwork by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

Let’s talk about xenoestrogens.

What are xenoestrogens?
These are chemical estrogens that are not manufactured by the body. Xeno means foreign, so these are literally translated to ‘foreign estrogens.’ They are either synthetic or come from natural chemical compounds.This also includes plant-based estrogens, called phytoestrogens, but their effects are considered to be milder than both the estrogens produced by the body and the chemical estrogens.

So how do they affect fertility?
Xenoestrogens mimic endogenous estrogens that are produced by the body. They are similar enough in chemical structure for the body to mistake them for regular estrogen, but are different enough to be harmful to the body and to disrupt certain processes. Natural estrogen is responsible for stimulating cell division in hormone responsive tissue, like the ovaries, breasts, and uterine lining. When your body is overloaded with xenoestrogens, it mimics those actions and stimulates abnormal tissue growth causing ovarian cysts, PCOS, endometriosis, and fibrocystic breast disease. It can also cause luteal phase defect, which means that the post-ovulatory phase of your cycle is shortened, not allowing enough time for implantation.

The thing about the female reproductive cycle is that all the hormones are on a feedback system. If the estrogen balance is off, it can throw off all the other hormones.

Lastly, recent environmental studies show that animal species living near xenoestrogen polluted waters are unable to reproduce successfully.

Where are xenoestrogens found?
In household cleaning products, makeup, shampoo, soaps, body wash, nail polish, plastics, pesticides, herbicides, and unfiltered tap water.

Here are the additives to avoid. You won’t find ‘xenoestrogens’ listed on your ingredient list.

  • Parabens - found in personal care products, creams and lotions.
  •  4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC)- found in sunscreen
  • Benzophenone - found in sunscreen
  • E127 (Erythrosine) – used as red food coloring
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA - food preservative
  • Phthalates - used as plasticizers in plastic bottles, food wrapping foils and any other plastic items such as toys, containers, tupperware etc.
  • DEHP - another PVC plasticizer.
  • Propyl gallate - antioxidant used in oil production.
  • PCB’s - used in glues, paint and lubricants.
  • Atrazine - used as herbicide.
  • Pentachlorophenol - used as wood preservative and pesticide
  • Nonylphenol - found in surfactants, detergents, pesticides and emulsifiers.
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane and heptachlor - found in pesticides.
  • TSP - Tri-sodium phosphates found in washing detergents and fabric softeners.

This list may seem overwhelming, and it sort of is. But there's good news! There are natural alternatives for all the products you are using that contain xenoestrogens. Choose to eat organic foods, use natural and chemical-free makeup, shampoo, laundry detergent, and swap out your old school cleaning products for more natural ones.


Kaylie Hopper