Recent research suggests air pollution could play a role in female fertility. Air pollution has been linked
to decrease in eggs in women ovaries. The ovaries contain follicle cells which holds lifetime reserve of
eggs. These follicle cells secrete a protein hormone called Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH). The level of
AMH in the blood estimates the number of antral follicles inside the ovaries and thus gives an estimate
of the ovarian reserve. The AMH level can be affected by a number of factors such as age, genetics,
obesity, use of oral contraceptives and smoking habits. A low ovarian reserve does not necessarily
hamper natural conception. Egg quality is a more important factor for conception.
Egg quality refers to the state of the eggs if they are genetically normal (euploid) or abnormal
(aneuploid). For example, a 50 years old woman with an high ovarian reserve – – If 75% of her eggs
genetically abnormal, natural conception is likely to be difficult. For a 25 years old woman with a low
ovarian reserve – – If 75% is genetically normal, she has a good chance of getting pregnant.
Italian researchers examined 1,318 women in Modena, Italy who were exposed to the pollutants
nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Findings presented at the European Society of Reproduction
and Embryology annual meeting in Vienna, Austria revealed that women who were exposed to high
levels of the pollutants had severe ovarian reserve reduction. It was observed that the higher the
exposure to these pollutants, the lower the AMH.
Some studies have also linked air pollution to irregular menstrual cycles. If these effects are permanent,
it might imply that women exposed to high levels of air pollution might have reduced child bearing age
and an earlier menopause.