Why Fertility Rates Are Declining?

This may surprise you but yes, fertility is declining. Our society is not prepared for the decrease in the number of children being born which is set to have an unforeseen impact on societies, researchers suggest. There has been a falling fertility rate in almost every country, and populations will decrease by the end of the century.

The fertility rate and the number of children being born is also decreasing. If the number falls roughly below 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100.

Similarly, in men, sperm parameters have been on a drastic decline. Since, 1950, there has been over 50% decline in sperm counts, and at the current rate of decline, majority of men will not have sperm (and demonstrates azoospermia). A true handmaid's tale come to life!

While this research for fertility decline may connect to women being driven by education and work, as well as greater access to contraception that leads women to choose to have fewer children, this decline in fertility rates may also be connected to lifestyle. 

IT'S OKAY FOR WOMEN TO CHOOSE WHAT WORKS FOR THEM AND THEIR LIVES. However, there are some key factors that I believe are contributing to declining fertility, beyond choice.

As our world continues to progress, we continue to consume more processed foods leading to an unhealthy lifestyle that definitely affects fertility. We tend to take for granted that our health plays a vital role in everything we do.

So much of that has to do with our environment, and the prevalent use of toxins in our day-to-day. But I do believe there are other factors at play.

1. Plastic is everywhere. A realistic picture of our world shows that it is excessively polluted. Coastal regions and oceans are polluted by farm fertilizer, manure runoff, sewage, and industrial discharges, and large isles of waste plastic are floating around, impacting sea life. (PMID: 33256215) Over 200 pollutants are found to be reproductively harmful to both men and women. Overuse of plastics as well as having too much exposure to reproductive toxins that actually mimic estrogen. This causes fertility rates imminently decline and causes estrogen dominance which makes it too hard for women to conceive. There is also a recent study that revealed the deleterious effects of Microplastic exposure on male reproduction and sperm quality, making them a potential hazard to reproductive success. (PMID: 33804513)

2. GMOs or genetically modified organisms in our food impact whether or not our bodies will be able to reproduce. A hypothetical link between infertility and genetically modified food states that there could be conjectured that GMFs/GMOs could be a potential hazard to reproduction, linking to the development of infertility through influencing the endocrine metabolism, and endometriosis. (PMID: 25342149). Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent inflammatory disease affecting 10 % of reproductive-aged women. Often accompanied by chronic pelvic pain and infertility, endometriosis rigorously interferes with women's quality of life. Although the pathophysiology of endometriosis remains unclear, a growing body of evidence points to the implication of environmental toxicants. Over the last decade, an increase in the incidence of endometriosis has been reported and coincides with the introduction of genetically modified foods in our diet. (PMID: 21111655) 

3. Glyphosates in cotton (pads and tampons) negatively affect our vaginal microbiome. Some in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that glyphosate and its formulations exhibit estrogen-like properties, and growing evidence has indicated they may disrupt normal endocrine function, with adverse consequences for reproductive health. (PMID: 34305812). Glyphosate (Gly) is the most utilized herbicide in agriculture, although its widespread use is generating controversy in the scientific world because of its probable carcinogenic effect on human cells. An inhibiting effect on EPSP synthase from intestinal microbiota has been reported, affecting mainly beneficial bacteria (PMID: 31442459). Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA-USA) has reaffirmed that glyphosate is safe for users, there are controversial studies that question this statement. Some of the reported effects are due to exposure to high doses; however, recent evidence has shown that exposure to low doses could also alter the development of the female reproductive tract, with consequences on fertility. (PMID: 32659439). 

There are other factors that are responsible for fertility decline. But eliminating plastics, GMOs, and Glyphosates are three easy ways we can lower exposure to our bodies. We should be mindful on what things we introduce to our bodies and what effects these have on our bodies. Making the right decisions would only not impact your fertility, but also overall health. And optimizing your fertility health would also mean a great environment for your soon-to-be-baby, to grow and develop in your womb, and support bringing a healthier baby into the world.