Why is it important to avoid toxic substances when you're pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant? Is it to protect you or the baby?
What are the most important substances to avoid when you're pregnant?
We don’t know if there’s a safe level you can consume when you’re pregnant, so the best advice is to not consume any. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Drinking alcohol has been linked to severe developmental issues, learning difficulties, attention deficit disorders, and other developmental problems that don’t appear until later in a baby’s life.
There are so many types of illegal drugs and the effects are varied depending on the drug. With narcotics, we see addiction in the baby. Then the baby suffers from withdrawal symptoms. It can cause neurodevelopmental problems as well. Other drugs affect the pregnancy and can cause complications for the mother, like high blood pressure or preterm labor.
Smoking cigarettes can increase your chance of miscarriage or preterm labor. It also can affect fetal growth, and increases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Vaping during pregnancy would also be harmful, since e-cigarettes contain nicotine. E-cigarettes are less-regulated than regular cigarettes and that means the amount of nicotine or other substances in them is harder to determine.
What other toxins should be avoided during pregnancy?
Pregnant women should limit mercury, which is found in some fish. Mercury affects neurodevelopment and the brain of the developing fetus. Limit your choices to low-mercury fish. Fish is an excellent source of lean protein and the fish oil found in fish is especially healthy, so it’s important to find the balance. A good goal is to eat two servings of low mercury fish per week. Lake fish and shellfish are safe to eat.
Avoid these types of fish if you’re pregnant:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Tilefish (from Gulf of Mexico)
- Big eye tuna
Fish with lowest levels of mercury include:
- Canned tuna,
- Trout (freshwater)
For more information see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations for pregnant women about fish.
Preparing food and avoiding toxins in household products
Pregnant women should make sure meats are cooked all the way through before eating. Deli-meats, need to be heated and not eaten cold. And if you’re pregnant, only eat dairy products that are pasteurized.
Keep your house dust free. Mop your floors. Use a HEPA filter on vacuum. This will help reduce toxins in your home.
Opt for natural cleaning products. You can create your own with vinegar. You can soak citrus fruit in it for a better scent. A lot of cleaners are not studied in pregnant women, so we just don’t know if they’re safe. When you are using cleaning products, keep the room well-ventilated.
Avoid flame retardants. Try to buy infant clothing without flame retardants, because they contain toxins. Flame retardants are common in pajamas, costumes, and furniture.
Are there certain over-the-counter medications that should be avoided during pregnancy?
Any medication has a potential for harm during pregnancy. It’s best to not take anything before you talk to your doctor or midwife. They can help you know if over the counter medications are safe and when it is safe to take them. They can also help review any prescription medications you have. For pain relief, Tylenol is preferred over Advil or aspirin for pregnant women.
Are there certain prescription medications that should be avoided?
If you’re taking medication and thinking of getting pregnant go in for a check-up. Many women have put off going to the doctor during the pandemic, but Intermountain has many safety protocols in place to protect you and your provider from COVID-19.
Does it matter what trimester you're in as far as reducing exposure to environmental toxins or medications?
What about toxic exposures in the workplace?
Let your doctor or midwife know about your work environment. You’ll want to minimize your exposure if you work with cleaners or chemicals, whether you work in a factory, warehouse, dry cleaners, salon or in healthcare.