You take your prenatal vitamins, do pregnancy yoga, and try and eat a variety of healthy foods (provided your morning sickness will allow you to eat something besides saltine crackers). But you may not realize there’s another piece to having a healthy pregnancy – ensuring that your unborn child isn’t exposed to environmental and food-related toxins.
“A few years ago I worked with an environmental working group to do a study where we looked at babies at the moment of birth,” explains Kids in the House expert Dr. Alan Greene. “We checked their umbilical cord blood and analyzed it to see what was in there. And what we found was kind of shocking. We found 200 industrial chemicals in babies at the moment of birth. That had already gotten into them before they were born. What that teaches us is what’s out there in the world isn’t just out there. It gets into us and even into the inner sanctum of the womb.”
So why aren’t mothers informed about this? Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, who blogs at MommyGreenest.com, thinks it’s just a matter of time before doctors start warning pregnant women about chemical exposure. “For so many years….they thought that alcohol and nicotine didn’t cross the placenta. Now, we know that that’s the case. So, doctors, OB-GYNs say to patients, ‘Don’t drink. Don’t smoke when you’re pregnant.’ But there’s a third thing that I think we really need to be aware of and that’s pesticides. They did a recent study where they found that women who were exposed to pesticides through food and through what they’re using in their homes, actually had the same dangers posed to their babies as smoking in pregnancy (lower birth weight, earlier labor.) So, I think that in the future, doctors will tell their patients, ‘Avoid smoking, avoid alcohol and eat organic when you’re pregnant. Avoid those pesticides to have a healthier and a happier baby.’”
Luckily, there are a few key ways you can reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals that could affect your growing baby:
- Check your cleaning supplies. “The bad chemicals only get in a few ways. They get in through the air your breathe, so make sure the fumes your cleaning supplies emit are not something you don’t want in your baby,” says Dr. Greene. Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of The Honest Company, agrees. “The environment is not somewhere outside your home; it’s actually what you’re inviting into your home — so you really need to be aware of the products that you’re bringing into the home, the things you’re painting the walls with and cleaning surfaces with.”
- Use safer skin care products. “Start checking the labels on those. Not just on food. Anything you’re washing into your hair, putting onto your skin or makeup,” Gavigan suggests. “Choose natural, sustainable, non-toxic when you can find them.“
- You are what you eat – and so is your baby. “There are toxins in ordinary every day food that you should avoid while pregnant,” explains Del Millers, PhD, a nutritionist and author. “You have things like the deli meats, processed foods, and the hot dogs, that that are filled with nitrates and methylates that you really want to avoid. These are bad news because they can have neurological effects on your unborn child. You also want to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, because it can cause metabolic disorders in an unborn child. And you don’t want that. So really stick with the natural whole foods.”
Avoiding chemicals can be a difficult feat in today’s world, but it’s well worth it to protect the health of your growing baby. “Your baby is inside of your body, so what you’re doing to your own body is going the affect the health of that baby, and that’s a big responsibility, a big duty,” Gavigan admits. His advice? “Relax as much as possible, eat and drink fresh water and fresh foods as much as possible, and really think of and envision that beautiful, healthy baby, and the beautiful time you’re going to be spending with them soon.”
For more information on sustaining a healthy, green pregnancy, watch these videos and more on Kids in the House:
Creating the healthiest environment while pregnant
Dr. Green’s Tips for a Green Pregnancy
Do I need to watch out for GMOs when I’m pregnant?