There is nothing about trying to conceive that comes easy to most. Whether you’re navigating through the challenges of infertility, restructuring your diet to better nourish your body, or limiting your exposure to products you used to love — there’s a learning curve to it all. 

“Living a healthy lifestyle is important for fertility,” explains Dr. Denise Wiesner, DACM, L. Ac. “I think the stress of having to be perfect at all costs creates a lot of fear and this fear isn't good for fertility either. We all are exposed to toxins in our environment, they are unavoidable. We can, however, choose to regulate what we put in and on our bodies.” 

Learning about what products you should nix off your list if you’re trying to conceive isn’t about limiting your existence, but instead, it’s about minimizing your fear. The more you know, the less worried you can be when you move through the world, when shopping at your local grocery store, or when putting skincare products on your face. 

Can I use retinol or other skincare products when trying to get pregnant? 

If you’re trying to conceive and currently use retinol as part of your skincare routine, it’s time to swap it out for something pregnancy-safe. According to a study published by the Motherisk Team at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, limiting retinol use (or retinoid use) is a safety measure, “until data on larger cohorts are collected…” They further add, “women should not be encouraged to use topical retinoids during pregnancy.”   

Dr. Wiesner also noted, “Products that contain chemicals can disrupt our hormones. Many xenoestrogens (toxic estrogens) found in some products can bind to our estrogen receptors — this isn't good for our hormones. An example is a petrolatum, this is contained in many lip products and in vaseline.” 

If you’re worried about a specific product you are using, the American Academy of Dermatology Association has listed out some of the products that those who are TTC or pregnant should stop using immediately. Some include Isotretinoin, Tazarotene, and Spironolactone. 

What cleaning products should I stop using when trying to conceive?

Whether trying to conceive or not, the current trend seems to encourage embracing a cleaner, less toxic, more “green” list of household items. 

According to the CDC, avoiding the harmful chemicals in some household cleaning products can actually be the best move when trying to conceive: 

“Avoid harmful chemicals, environmental contaminants, and other toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace. These substances can hurt the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to diseases.” 

What medications can you take pre-pregnancy?

The question of whether you can take over-the-counter medications or supplements, from melatonin to painkillers, while TTC is a complicated one. 

For instance, with melatonin, Mothertobaby, a resource recommended by the CDC, notes that, “it is not known if taking melatonin supplements can make it harder to get pregnant.” 

While speaking to your own care team is the best and first piece of advice when figuring out what medicine to take or not take, the CDC does also have a directory of drug-specific information that can help offer a starting point in your research. Jotting down what the site says and taking those questions to your doctor can help you make a more informed decision.

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“Pregnant women should always consult with their health care professional before taking any prescription or OTC medicine,” notes the CDC. “Women taking pain medicines who are considering becoming pregnant should also consult with their health care professionals to discuss the risks and benefits of pain medicine use.” 

Can paint fumes affect fertility?

There are limited studies on the impact of paint (all kinds of paint) and individuals who are pregnant or trying to conceive. 

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Currently, the assumption is that household painting involves very low levels of exposure. The recommendation is to avoid exposure to oil-based paints, lead, and mercury. You should minimize exposure to latex paints that contain ethylene glycol ethers and biocides. Ideally, you should get someone else to do the job for you.” 

While the list of things you can’t use or do when trying to conceive may feel long, it’s important to seek out balance during this time. For some of our favorite fertility products, visit the Rescripted marketplace. And remember, if you have any questions about whether something is TTC-safe, don’t hesitate to consult with your healthcare provider.

​​Vivian Nunez is a writer, content creator, and host of Happy To Be Here podcast. Her award-winning Instagram community has created pathways for speaking on traditionally taboo topics, like mental health and grief. You can find Vivian @vivnunez on Instagram/TikTok and her writing on both Medium and her blog,