Environmental Hazards


Many environmental agents can cross over the placenta and affect the fetus. Substances in the mother’s blood are readily transferred from the mother’s uterine arteries, across the placental membrane, into the baby’s umbilical vein, and then to the baby’s entire body. Though research has been done on chemical effects on fetal development and birth defects, no solid conclusions have been made about specific chemicals causing birth defects. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid environmental hazards when possible in order to provide the safest conditions for your baby.

You can protect the health of your unborn child by avoiding hazardous chemicals in drinking water , food, air, and home and work environments. Wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides and filter your drinking water if you know or suspect it might contain lead or high amounts of chlorine.

While pregnant, avoid products that give off toxic vapors, such as glues and gasoline. Let someone else pump your gas for you when possible, as the fumes can be dangerous, and pump handles designed to capture escaping vapors don’t always work. Household cleaning products, such as oven cleaner, are also hazardous. Health-food stores and mainstream grocery stores carry an array of non-toxic alternatives. Aerosol sprays, though they now include halogenated hydrocarbons as opposed to CFCs, may still present danger and are best avoided or limited. Your response to vaccinations may be unpredictable due to the changes in your immune system, so discuss the necessity of them with your doctor or midwife, as they can be potentially harmful. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke and contact with pesticides. Now is not the time to have your house fumigated. If working out in the yard, wear protective gloves and avoid contact with potentially toxic fertilizers or bug sprays.

Some experts believe that the radiation emitted from a microwave oven (though it’s a very small amount) could possibly harm fetal tissues. Though the evidence about the potential dangers isn’t conclusive, you might want to stay on the safe side and stand away from the microwave while it’s in use.

Steer clear of all paint products, especially paint removers, which are highly toxic. The nursery can become that beautiful light peach or sea-foam blue, but let someone else do the labor. Your own labor will begin soon and until that time comes, it’s best to avoid any chemicals that may affect your developing baby.

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