Infertility is an issue affecting many people today. There are various factors affecting fertility, but an unavoidable one is UV exposure.
Radiation exposure has a significant effect on reproduction, and ultraviolet (UV) light is a source of continuous radiation. Due to UV rays coming from our major source of light, the sun, avoiding exposure is difficult. However, there are ways that you can still prevent infertility issues due to UV exposure.
What is UV Light?
The sun is our primary source of light for the planet. Most light emitted by the sun can be seen with the naked eye. However, there are also rays in the electromagnetic spectrum that cannot be seen by humans. Ultraviolet (UV) light exists between the visible and X-ray part of the spectrum. UV light has shorter waves than visible light, falling between 400 and 10 nanometers.
How UV Light Affects Us
There are three types of UV radiation emitted from the sun; they are classified as UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C rays are the most harmful, but a majority of them are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. UV-B rays are harmful as well, but mostly due to prolonged exposure. UV-B rays can cause sunburns and even increase the risk of DNA and cellular damage. Fortunately, 95 percent of UV-B rays are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere.
What is Fertility?
Fertility in both men and women relates to their ability to conceive and give birth, respectively. In men, it depends on the ability of healthy sperm to fertilize an egg. Motility (movement), morphology (shape), and concentration of sperm all play a role in a man’s ability to reproduce. Fertility in women depends on multiple factors. First, a healthy supply of eggs must be released from the ovaries. Second, a woman’s uterus must be healthy enough to support fertilized eggs and carry a pregnancy to term. There are also hormones like estrogen and progesterone that control the entire process. These must be at suitable levels for conception and birth to occur properly.
What is Infertility?
According to the CDC, infertility occurs when a couple cannot conceive after a year of unprotected sex. In order to get pregnant, a healthy fertilized egg must travel down the fallopian tube and attach to the uterus. Any problem with one or more of these steps results in infertility. Infertility affects many couples globally. According to the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth, approximately one in eight couples have issues conceiving.
What Causes Infertility?
Approximately a third of infertility is due to males, a third due to females and another third is due to complications in both partners. Age, smoking, being overweight, alcohol consumption and exposure to environmental toxins are a few elements affecting reproduction in men and women.
Common Causes of Infertility in Men
Infertility in men is affected by sperm concentration, their movement and their shape. Any abnormalities in these factors can cause infertility. There are varying risk factors or disorders that may cause abnormalities in men’s reproductive organs:
- Being obese or overweight
- Overexposure to testosterone
- Traumatic injury of the testicles can affect sperm production
- Certain medical conditions can cause testicular failure. A common one is diabetes.
- Exposure to radiation
- Certain cancer treatments involving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery
Causes of Infertility in Women
Causes of infertility in women are slightly different from those in men. However, there are common factors that affect a woman’s ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to full term. Smoking, age and genetic disorders are just a few of the many:
- Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA). This condition is caused by excessive stress or low body weight.
- Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). This condition is a result of ovary failure before menopause.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a condition that affects a woman’s ovulation cycle, causing it to not function properly.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Radiation exposure
- Fallopian tube obstruction
- Abnormal uterine contour
UV Rays and Conception
Studies have found that UV rays can have an effect on human reproduction. This vitamin is especially important in the first weeks of pregnancy, and for the development of the baby. Research shows that UV rays can decrease vitamin B9 (folate) levels, which increase child mortality rates in pregnant women. Studies have also concluded that exposure to UV light can affect motility and morphology of sperm, which can have a negative impact on male fertility.
Piecing It All Together
There are many contributing factors that can influence a person’s ability to conceive. While bad lifestyle choices and obesity are common reasons for infertility, UV radiation from the sun can also cause infertility. While exposure is unavoidable, you can still protect yourself from UV radiation damage by wearing a skin protectant. Doctors recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sun protectant with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating of at least 30. This way, you’ll be protected from both UV-A and UV-B rays.