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Infertility on the rise

Learn more about how our modern lifestyles affect both fertility and the health of our children in my book, Conversations with my Daughter:  How to Have a Healthy Baby.

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In Australia, infertility rates are on the rise, with one couple in six experiencing infertility1. Multiple factors have been attributed to declines in fertility rates (worldwide). These include; trying to conceive later in life, obesity, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and environmental toxins2.

The Australian Department of Health, has recorded a shift in the median age of mothers giving birth, with women having their first child later in life. The highest fertility rates were for women aged between 30 – 34 years3, this is important to note, as fertility peaks at 25 and then declines from 32 years, with another steep decline at age 374. The median age for men becoming fathers was 33 years5.

Obesity is also linked to infertility with 27.9% of Australians being obese6. In men, obesity has been linked to erectile dysfunction, a reduction in semen quality and changes in sperm proteomes7. While in women, obesity is associated with menstrual dysfunction, anovulation and higher miscarriage rates8.

Environmental toxin exposure has also been linked to infertility with researchers pointing to low dose, chronic exposure to combinations of toxins as a potential explanation for the increasing prevalence of impairment of spermatogenesis9. Negative impacts in female reproductive health have also been observed. For example dioxin exposure has been shown to inhibit transcription of mRNAs, aromatase and other steroidogenic enzymes responsible for oestrogen synthesis10.

An interesting key that underpins these factors is their association with mitochondrial dysfunction. Optimal mitochondrial function is paramount for fertility in both men and women.


In female fertility, oocytes contain the most amount of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) than other types of cells, with mitochondria being an important contributor to oocyte quality4. Oogenesis utilises adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria at a number of steps and this continues after fertilisation to assist in chromatid separation, cell division, and spindle formation11.

In addition to this, the development of the zygote is reliant on the existing pool of mitochondria available and this existing pool will decrease with each cell division. Decreased numbers of mitochondria coupled with dysfunctional mitochondria during embryo development can lead to miscarriage11.


Mitochondria are required for sperm motility and dysfunction of mtDNA may impact spermatozoa functionality. Sperm require ATP for the flagellum to move in fertilisation and as such quality of semen can be related to the functioning of the respiratory chain in sperm mitochondria12.

Spermatozoa in infertile men share a number of similar characteristics. These include; ROS production and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential12. Spermatozoa are particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage12.


If you would like to start a family in the next five years, it is never too early to begin cleaning up your body.  This applies to both the mother and the father.  At True Medicine we specialise in individualised clinical detox programmes as well as educating you about how to remove the daily toxins you may be exposed to and how these affect your body. 


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