From your flow to your vinyasa, your trusted yoga mat has supported you, quite literally. But while it can help you create your own mindfulness space and give you added grip, new research is showing that it can negatively impact your fertility.
A study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found a link between a chemical in yoga mats — organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs), which are placed in a polyurethane foam that’s also present in other items like upholstered sofas, baby products, and building materials to make them less flammable — and a woman’s fertility and chances of conceiving.
The researchers studied women who were going through in vitro fertilization (IVF) over a 10-year period and found 80 percent of women had traces of these chemicals in their urine. And the higher the concentration of these chemicals, the more dangerous the effect.
According to the study, those women who had increased levels of the chemical in their body had a 10 percent reduced chance of having a successful IVF treatment and were 41 percent less likely to become pregnant.
“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” says study author Courtney Carignan, a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School. “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”
But before you go throwing away your beloved mat, the takeaway, researchers noted, was that couples who are going, or plan on going, through IVF should try to limit their exposure to products that contain flame retardants. In fact, study authors also noted that there needs to be much more research completed on the effects of these flame retardants on male fertility, and since this is the first study of its kind, much more testing has to be completed on other chemicals’ influence on women’s ability to conceive.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting pregnant without compromising your workout routine—yes, that means yoga stays. And, you can opt for an organic yoga mat that is formaldehyde-free (Alo’s Warrior Mat is our pick with the lowest level in the market!). Then you can really savasana peacefully.