A new study done at the University of Cambridge suggests low oxygen levels in the womb might lead to fertility problems later in life. It found that if developing fetuses are exposed to chronic hypoxia, it might lead to early ageing of ovaries and a decrease in the egg count. Chronic hypoxia refers to low oxygen available to the lungs.
“It’s as if low levels of oxygen caused the female’s ovarian tissue to age faster. Biologically, the tissue appears older and the female would run out of eggs – in other words, become infertile – at a younger age,” says Dr. Catherine Aiken.
However, hypoxia may arise out of several factors, including smoking, maternal obesity, and living at high altitudes. The research said that smoking also leads to pre-eclampsia. These conditions are said to have long term effects on the offspring’s health.
The study was conducted on pregnant female rats where they were placed in reduced levels of oxygen (13% as compared to 21% in the air) from day 6 to day 20 of their pregnancy. On asking whether the research will have effect on humans since it was conducted on rats, Dr. Aiken said that it is possible that these findings could be translated to humans, since, other studies looking at hypoxia during pregnancy taking in account conditions like heart disease have shown to be relevant in humans.
She added, “If the same turns out to be true for them, then women at risk will be able to take action: by having children earlier in life or looking to assisted reproduction, such as IVF, there should be no reason why these women cannot have children.”
Other studies by the University in the past also found that Marijuana edibles causes harmful effects and passive smoking leads to fertility problems too.