Air pollution and its impact on the menstrual cycle

Air pollution is known to have an impact on the development of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases or on the weight of a newborn baby, but did you imagine that it could also have an impact on the menstrual cycle! Environmental pollution, in particular nitrogen dioxide NO2 (emitted by traffic for example) or fine particles can impact the endocrine system and in particular stress hormones and the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis which can influence the functioning of the cycles.

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Studies to characterize environmental pollution and the menstrual cycle
With more fine particles, the duration of the follicular phase is longer.
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Studies to characterize environmental pollution and the menstrual cycle?

L’étude de lINSERM en question :

The research team asked 184 women to collect their urine daily for a full cycle. Hormonal assays were then carried out on the samples and this was related to the level of pollution measured at each woman’s life address during the 30 days preceding a cycle.

It was shown by the research group led by researcher Rémy Slama that with each increase in the concentration of fine particles during the study period, the duration of the follicular phase increased slightly. The follicular phase begins at the onset of menstruation and corresponds to the period of maturation of an ovarian follicle which, upon ovulation, releases an oocyte that can be fertilised, this is the pre-ovulatory phase. ; the luteal phase begins after ovulation and lasts until the beginning of the next period. Under exposure conditions over a 30-day window before the start of the cycle, the follicular phase is longer by an average of 1.6 days for every 10 µg/m3 of PM 10.A long follicular phase indicates that the body takes longer to ovulate.

With more fine particles, the duration of the follicular phase is longer.

The impact of air pollution on health is generally negative (increased risk of disease development, aggravation of already existing pathologies). However, the effect of pollution on the menstrual cycle (lengthening of the follicular phase) does not seem to impact health (no evidence of deleterious effect due to a longer follicular phase). Studies incorporating consideration of the exposome (environmental factors in the broadest sense) would provide a better understanding of all the impacts of the environment on cycle variations and health effects.

NB The passage from the follicular phase to the luteal phase, i.e. ovulation (approximately 24 hours) is characterized by a very slight drop in body temperature followed by an increase in body temperature during the luteal phase. Monitoring body temperature (in the morning before getting up) therefore makes it possible to define the duration of the phases of the cycle without having to resort to hormone dosage. 

Problems having a kid?

A longer follicular phase has no proven impact according to current fertility knowledge, whereas a short follicular phase would risk producing an immature egg, which in this case poses a problem for conception. Aging tends to shorten the duration of the follicular phase by an average of 3.2 days between the ages of 20 and 45. In addition, it should be noted that other environmental factorshave been correlated with reductions in follicular phase; for example, alcohol consumption, high caffeine intake, or smoking are associated with decreased follicular phase. Although it is not possible to directly link the menstrual cycle and fertility in this study via the duration of the follicular phase; other studies have shown that being stressed, living close to a busy road, the presence of fine particles or having weight problems decreases fertility.

So a healthy lifestyle and reduced exposure to pollution remains the key to healthy ageing.

It is important to remember that the pollution referred to in the concept of exposome can take many forms (including risks due to pathogens). During the menstrual cycle if certain precautions are not taken, there may be a very rare but not non-existent risk of toxic shock syndrome which is linked to bacterial toxins that pass into the bloodstream. The development of the bacteria involved can be encouraged by wearing tampons or menstrual cups for too long. For his health it is therefore very important to respect the indications of wearing time and hygiene associated with these devices and in case of fevers >38.8°C, skin rashes and hypotension it is important to remove the device and consult a health professional.

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