Study: Plastic May Interfere with IVF Success

Posted on March 31, 2016 by Inception Fertility

The Graduate. Plastics are also becoming memorably linked to a host of health problems. For example, more than one study has found that in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes are less successful when women—and possibly men—have higher levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in their bodies. 1

BPA is a chemical used to make plastic hard and shatterproof—and it can leach from containers into food and drinks. Acting as an endocrine disrupter, it mimics the hormone estrogen—and can derail reproduction and other systems dependent upon hormones to work well.

The most recent study on the topic of plastics and fertility was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in January. It followed 239 women undergoing IVF in Massachusetts from 2007 to 2012. Just 17 percent of the women with the highest exposure to BPA became pregnant compared with 54 percent of the women with the lowest exposure. Interestingly, women who did not eat soy had lower birth rates, suggesting that soy foods may have a protective effect.1,2

In previous similar studies, BPA has been shown to:

  • Impair cell division in the ovaries. A study of 174 women undergoing IVF found that women with the highest BPA exposure had, on average, 24 percent fewer cells maturing into eggs than those with the lowest exposure.
  • Reduce estrogen responses during fertility treatments. A study of 44 women undergoing IVF found reduced responses in those with the highest BPA levels.
  • Alter menstrual cycles and the uterus. Examining the impact of non-toxic concentrations of BPA on the lining of the uterus (endometrium), researchers found that BPA disrupts cells on several levels, including maturation and receptivity of the endometrium.3
  • Affect embryo quality during IVF. Men may also be at risk. One study found that high levels of BPA in men’s blood was possibly linked with embryo quality during IVF.

You may find these results discouraging. However, there is a silver lining here. You can take steps to limit your intake of BPA by limiting your exposure to plastics. Have a conversation with your physician about other steps you can take to lower your risks.


  1. Environmental Health News: Undergoing fertility treatment? Watch your plastics.
  2. Chavarro JE et al. Soy Intake Modifies the Relation Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Assisted Reproduction. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. (Published online January 27, 2016.)
  3. Mannelli C et al. Bisphenol A modulates receptivity and secretory function of human decidual cells: in vitro study. Reproduction. 2015;150(2):115–125.

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