There’s been a lot of buzz in the news regarding yoga mats and their connection to infertility, and you may have some questions on your mind: Is it true? Should I be worried? Should I never practice yoga again?
We’ve got a quick rundown of what you need to know, so you don’t ditch your yoga practice for good!
What’s the story?
There’s a chemical called organophosphate flame retardants (all you need to know is that it’s abbreviated PFR), that’s used in many polyurethane foam products. Yep, you guessed it, polyurethane foam is found in many yoga mats. It’s also a common component to car seats, couches, and other cushioned furniture. PFRs are used in these products to help reduce their flammability – making your sofa less likely to catch fire. However, PFRs have come under recent scrutiny, and for good reason. A study conducted by Harvard, Duke, and University of Michigan researchers looked specifically at women receiving IVF treatment and the influence of PFR exposure.
What did they find?
They found that when being treated for infertility, women with a higher incidence of PFR in their urine responded less well to IVF treatments. Basically when higher levels of PFRs were found in the body, women receiving IVF treatment were less likely to have successful fertilizations, implantations, clinical pregnancies and live births.
What does this mean?
Exposure to PFRs, which are present in many yoga mats, might decrease your chances of conceiving when going through IVF. But remember, this is one study that was done in one specific location, and only looked at women who were already experiencing infertility. Many external factors have not been ruled out, so we can’t yet say that yoga mats cause infertility – the research isn’t there yet.
What should you do?
Stay informed! Awareness allows you to take the right kind of action and make the healthiest choices for you and your lifestyle. As with any environmental chemicals, look for ways to reduce your interaction with them. Going organic isn’t just a trend for diets anymore – it’s a lifestyle habit. Organic yoga mats are made without chemicals (meaning without PFRs!) and they are growing in popularity. So there’s no need to nix your yoga practice. If you want to go organic, two of our favorite eco-friendly yoga mats can be found here and here.
But will switching to an organic yoga mat substantially reduce your PFR exposure? Probably not – but if it brings you peace of mind, it’s a good place to start. The truth is, there are a lot of products out there that we interact with on a daily basis that are made with PFRs. What this kind of research does is challenge common practice and force companies to look at the necessity of using such chemicals in their production. We’re sure there are more studies to come and the hope is that change is made in a healthier direction.
Remember that when this research is done it’s only establishing a possible connection between two things; in this case PFRs and infertility. We can’t point to PFRs and say ‘this is the one thing that causes infertility’, because there are so many environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors that influence this. If you’re planning for pregnancy or TTC, look for ways to surround yourself with natural, healthy options and products – but above all, don’t stress too much about what this research suggests. Lowered stress levels are going to seriously help with those baby-making efforts! If you’re making the best choices for you and your body, then you’re doing it right.