Endocrine disrupting chemicals and ovulation: Is there a relationship?

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Although the potential for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to disrupt female fecundity is great, few studies have assessed the threat to human reproduction. This study investigates levels of organochlorines in relation to their impact on women’s menstrual cycles and ovulatory status.

To address concerns of the Akwesasne Mohawk community in upstate New York regarding well-established exposure to EDCs, women’s fertility and reproductive health endpoints, we recruited 215 women between the ages of 21 and 38 years to measure menstrual cycle characteristics and levels of local pollutants. Of these, 155 women collected saliva over the course of their menstrual cycle allowing for analysis of estradiol and progesterone levels and the determination of ovulatory status in relationship to their serum pollutant levels. A subset of participants (15) who did not commence cycling within a month of their enrollment were not included in the analysis, hence reducing the sample size to 140 participants. Additionally, a lipid panel, estradiol and progesterone were assessed in serum on Day 3 of the menstrual cycle.

Median cycle length for women in the sample was 29 days. After aligning the cycles, 110 women were considered ovulatory and 45 (29%) anovulatory. Concentrations of groups of more persistent PCBs congeners, HCB, and p,p’-DDE did not differ significantly with ovulatory status. However, a sub-group of low-chlorinated PCB congeners, considered to be estrogenic were significantly higher among anovulatory women. These findings suggest that certain EDC’s, ubiquitous in our environment, may adversely affect menstrual cycles and thus have the capacity to impair reproductive function, including likelihood of conception.

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