We try so hard to eat healthy when pregnant… most of us anyway. We head to the produce isle for nutrient rich fruits and veggies like spinach. It’s not organic… but it’s spinach for God’s sake! We make ourselves eat said spinach….. We clean our homes religiously to avoid germs that may harm the baby. We run around spritzing air freshener in our home to keep it smelling nice… and lord knows we are sensitive to unpleasant odors during this special time. And then, we want to feel attractive in spite of our growing waistline, so we may get our hair colored or our nails done and dab some designer cologne on our wrist.
I hate to tell be the bearer of bad news ladies… but none of those things are good for you or your growing baby. Forget outdoor air quality for a second. Our indoor fumes pack far more punch. Most cleaning supplies contain chlorine bleach… that miracle chemical that whitens your whites and cleans your floor so well… it was invented to suffocate enemy soldiers as a weapon of chemical warfare. These products are absolutely not safe to be using at all much less when pregnant or in a home with small children.
The designer perfume that your husband loves contains fragrance. Though this sounds like a pleasant word… it is an umbrella term that means “a bunch of chemicals.” Manufacturers are not required to disclose the components of a particular fragrance… it is a loophole in the FDA’s regulations right now. So I will tell you a few common ingredients that fall under the fragrance umbrella. The EWG studied several brand name products and found phthalates to be in over ¾ of them. There was no mention of phthalates on the ingredient labels. These are known to cause reproductive and hormonal issues in animals! We’d like our pregnant reproductive systems to remain unharmed thank you. Fragrances also contain musk which are secreted in breast milk and can be found in the blood stream. They have been linked to cancer. Not so sexy now is it? What can you do? Well, you can’t get other people to stop wearing scented lotion or perfume. But you certainly can. Watch labels for the word fragrance. I replace this word with “birth control” in my head to be a smart a$$, but it’s kind of true when you consider that many of the chemicals are hormone disrupters as well as reproductive hazards. Opt for fragrance free or natural products instead.
Please don’t paint the nursery when you are already pregnant. Though pregnant painters make cute pictures…this is a job for someone who is not trying to grow a life. Volatile Organic Compounds are called volatile for a reason. VOCs are emitted from paint and can cause lung irritation as well as disrupt the kidney, liver and cells in general. They are also thought to be carcinogenic. If someone is going to paint the nursery… try for a VOC free or low VOC formula. They are out there. But still…. make your loved ones do it, not you.
Chemicals aside, your home still houses whatever gets tracked in on shoes and pet paws. And carpet keeps it there far longer. Those tidy families who take their shoes off at the door to protect their carpeting are also protecting their bodies. It is in our homes where we receive 80% of our pesticide exposure. They are brought into the home via our feet. You never know whose lawn is covered in chemicals or what ground is contaminated. Leave your shoes at the door to dramatically increase your air quality in the home! Other things you can do include buying a HEPA filter vacuum, using it frequently, using an air purifier and replacing your cheap air filter for a hypoallergenic one. Also encourage air flow by opening doors and windows, running fans and keeping some indoor plants around.
Most of us think to slow down on the caffeine, eliminate the alcohol and the tobacco, eat less sugar… you know…. the usual culprits of pregnancy issues. But what about the other harmful substances we consume? Toxins can be found in our water, in canned and prepackaged foods and on that cup of spinach we just blended into a smoothie. BPA and artificial preservatives can be found in canned food. Lead and mercury can be found in tap water. Pesticides are generously sprayed on most produce.Methyl iodide is a cancer-causing pesticide found on strawberries- a vitamin C- rich fruit very valuable for a pregnant mom and developing baby.
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide so harmful to children that it is considered a brain toxin. It is used widely on farms all over the country. It has been found to decreased IQ and increased rates of ADHD in children. This was found on apples in addition to 41 others.
The pesticide residue found most often on apples is a known developmental toxin. Thiabendazole. Apples are the most heavily pesticide ridden produce next being celery and strawberries.
We as pregnant women are encouraged to eat produce to help baby develop properly, so we are most at risk during this time. Pregnancy is a great time to go organic and at the very least, wash your produce thoroughly. Washing removes some of the harm. Unfortunately pesticides are absorbed right through the peel.
I was bewildered when I found the Environmental Working Group’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce list post pregnancy. A large, and I mean L.A.R.G.E. amount of the “healthy” produce I was eating during that crucial time was on the Dirty Dozen list. As a Brewer Diet follower and believer, I felt I was giving my baby a great start with all the produce I was eating. Strawberries, apples, spinach, kale, grapes and blueberries. All of them were dirty, dirty, dirty! At that time I thought “organic” was code for “costs more and rots quickly.” This is why knowledge is our best health defense.
Being mindful of what we put on and in our bodies will protect us and our growing babies from toxin exposure. Fragrance exposure, pesticide consumption and nail polish are things you can avoid for the most part, so don’t be afraid! Feel empowered. You are armed with knowledge now. And you can begin making changes at your own pace to the level you feel comfortable with. Nix the Sally Hanson Vampy red nails and the Armani cologne while you are rockin’ the bump. Opt for filtered water. Buy organic spinach. Use natural cleaning supplies or make your own. As you can see, none of these changes involve running out and hugging an oak tree. Though… you can if you would like. Having a green pregnancy is more about hugging yourself and your growing baby.