Are you pregnant? Toxins in your environment can be especially harmful to a developing fetus. Here’s what you can do to avoid them and ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
1. Reduce your exposure to plastic
Plastic contains the known endocrine disruptor, BPA, as well as other toxins such as phthalates. BPA can kill placental cells, possibly causing preeclampsia, miscarriage or premature birth.
Exposure to phthalates, also endocrine disruptors, has been shown to cause premature birth and to cause birth defects in animals.
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2. Avoid fish with high mercury levels
Eating fish is a great way to get essential omega-3 fatty acids. During pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids help the fetus’s nervous system develop correctly.
Unfortunately, fish can contain high levels of a form of mercury called methylmercury, which is a neurotoxin. Exposure to methylmercury during pregnancy can affect fetal brain development. Children who were exposed to methylmercury when in the womb can have learning and memory problems.
The FDA recommends pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces (2 to 3 servings) of fish every week, choosing fish that are lower in mercury, such as salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna and cod. If you are pregnant, you should avoid white (albacore) tuna and king mackerel, which have high mercury levels.
3. Eat fresh food
Avoid canned, packaged and processed foods, which can contain artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Cans can contain BPA.
4. Go natural with your skincare plan
Commercial skincare products can contain toxins that could be absorbed through your skin. Switch to organic products or try natural, homemade ones; like a raw egg, honey and sour cream facial mask or an exfoliator made from baking soda.
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5. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products
Commercial cleaning products can contain toxins like diethanolamine (DEA), which has been shown to cause brain damage in fetal rats and mice.
Avoid toxin exposure by using natural cleaning products, such as baking soda and vinegar.
6. Keep your garden free of chemical insecticides
Chemical insecticides work by causing damage to insects’ nervous systems. They can harm the nervous systems of people as well. Research shows that exposure to organophosphates, a common type of insecticide, in the womb increases the risk of developing problems with learning and memory, and can hinder emotional development.
You can keep pests away from your garden without using toxic chemicals, by encouraging beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises to visit, and by mixing up and rotating your plants. Onions and garlic are natural insecticides.
7. Avoid paint and paint thinners
Let someone else paint the baby’s room. Solvents such as perchloroethylene, toluene and xylene, which are found in paint thinners, have been shown to cause miscarriages and to cause problems with fetal development in animals.
8. Make sure there’s no lead in your tap water
Exposure to lead during pregnancy can cause gestational hypertension, miscarriage and problems with the development of the nervous system of the fetus.
If you’re concerned that your tap water might contain lead, have lead levels checked by the appropriate government agency (the EPA, if you’re in the US). Consider installing a filter that removes lead and other toxins.
Be careful with bottled water, as the plastic in the bottles can contain BPA.
9. Pay attention to your nose
During pregnancy, your sense of smell can become very acute. If a product you use all the time suddenly starts to smell horrible, it can be a sign that it contains chemicals that could have a negative effect on your pregnancy. Try to stay away from anything with a very unpleasant smell.
Down the Drain: Phthalates, Environmental Working Group
Environmental Phthalate Exposure and Preterm Birth, National Institutes of Health
Environmental Toxins Associated With Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Seminars in Reproductive Medicine
Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know, FDA
Healthy Pregnancy, Environmental Working Group
Human placenta cells die after BPA exposure, Environmental Health News
Mercury and Health, World Health Organization
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy, National Institutes of Health