You're Pregnant! A Basic Guide to Reducing the Toxins Around You by Aida Garcia-Toledo
Congratulations, you are pregnant! Preparing for a new baby, be it your first or third, can be both magical and nerve-wracking. You can feel wonderful and full of energy, and at other times nauseous and exhausted… and there is so much to do to prepare for a new baby!
Regardless of your experience, most mums-to-be do understand that pregnancy is a time to be healthy. Your doctor will probably remind you to take your vitamins, avoid raw fish and alcohol, and continue to exercise for the health of your baby. This is also, however, a time to take a closer look at your daily routine because, that precious baby inside of you is exposed to all of the chemicals it's mama is being exposed to every single day.
In fact, today’s babies are born with over 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants running through their umbilical cord blood. Some of these chemicals have never been tested for safety on infants nor fetus’. Others, we know, are toxic with serious health repercussions. This is a big deal because the developing fetus is extremely vulnerable to chemicals. Due to its (tiny) size, the rapid development of a baby's organs and systems and the fact that systems that detoxify and excrete chemicals in adults are not fully developed, this is the period of life where we are most vulnerable to even small amounts of chemicals.
Some chemicals that interrupt the development of a fetus can, at high levels, wreak havoc and result in severe birth defects. But even at lower levels they cause subtle, but important, changes in development that can surface later in childhood such as learning or behavioral problems, certain cancers and even neurodegenerative disease.
The good news? If you want to, you can drastically reduce the number of chemicals that your unborn child is exposed to. The catch? If you are already pregnant you have to start NOW. It does not, however, have to be overwhelming because -let’s face it- pregnancy is overwhelming enough. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe from the most common and harmful chemicals without adding stress!
1. Eat organic. At a minimum, make informed choices on what produce contains the highest levels of pesticides, and should always be purchased organic, ( like spinach, apples and strawberries) and which contain lower levels of pesticides and thus can be purchased as conventional ( like avocado, pineapple and mangoes) (for a full list of pesticide levels in produce read EWG’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticide in Produce ). Additionally, always buy organic dairy and poultry/meats if you can.
2. Eat fresh. Avoid canned food like soup, vegetables and sauces, since most cans are lined with BPA or other bisphenols. Bisphenols are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are quite harmful for babies. Avoid pre-made microwave meals. These meals will expose you to higher levels of phthalates (another endocrine disrupting chemical). Furthermore, a recent study found that those stored in recycled black plastic containers might actually also expose you to flame retardant chemicals.
3. Avoid plastic. Plastic containers can expose you to a number of hormone mimicking chemicals. Plastics are especially known to leach these chemicals when heated in the microwave or in the dishwasher. Switch to glass or stainless steel containers, especially when reheating meals and for your everyday water bottle.
4. Eat home cooked meals. I know, if you are nauseous it might seem impossible to consider cooking- however a recent studies found that eating out (and ordering delivery) will increase your phthalate levels substantially. Phthalates are chemicals mimic the hormone estrogen and can be quite dangerous to the developing fetus. While you are at it, when cooking, avoid using non-stick pans and instead switch to cast iron, glass or stainless steel.
1. Most mainstream home cleaning products contain an array of harmful chemicals; everything from carcinogenic dioxane, to endocrine disrupting fragrance chemicals (and more). If you are pregnant or looking to get pregnant, now is the time to throw out your toxic mainstream “pine or lemon fresh” house cleaners because the fumes from those cleaners are harmful for your developing baby - even if you are not the one doing the cleaning (the chemicals will linger in the air). The best option is making your own: 50% white vinegar and 50% water spray, and using this as an all purpose cleaner.
2. Water filter: pre pregnancy and pregnancy are vital periods to test your home’s drinking water for contaminants. The reason is that most of the US’s water supply has been found to contain unsafe amount of pollutants (according to EWG, over 81% of tested water systems contained contaminants linked to cancer and 77% of the US is drinking Hexavalent Chromium- the infamous Erin Brockovich chemical) . If your water is not as pure as you thought, consider purchasing a good water filtration system.
3. Pregnancy really is not the ideal time to renovate a home, buy new furniture, remodel, paint etc. If you can avoid it - do. If you absolutely need to embark on a construction/remodel project (yes, this includes a nursery) proceed with caution. Choose paints, construction material and new composite wood furniture that give off ZERO VOC’s (or, at a minimum, adhere to CARB 2 standards). Also, seriously consider investing in a quality air purifier with a HEPA and carbon filter. Opening your windows every single day to get fresh air circulating and toxic chemicals out, also helps.
Anything you rub on your body gets absorbed by your skin, eventually making its way to your developing baby..... do you really want to expose him or her to a long list of hard to pronounce mystery ingredients that have never been tested on humans for toxicity? Do we want our munchkins to be a laboratory test for these ingredients? Probably not... which is why now is the time to keep it simple in the bathroom.
1. Less is more. You do not have to give up your favorite products, but, the key is to use as little products as you can and where you feel comfortable, switch to safer options. Makeup, body lotion, body wash, shampoos, deodorant: today there are so many amazing companies producing truly great non-toxic products- this is the perfect time to switch to safer. Less is more; do it for your baby.
2. Belly Cream/Stretch mark creams: There are tons of, sometimes pricey, products that promise to keep a pregnant woman’s skin soft and stretch mark free. But many contain worrisome ingredients including endocrine disruptors. One of the easiest and most efficient solutions is using pure almond oil (my fav), or coconut oil all over you body after you shower. Shea butter, cocoa butter, and grapeseed oil also work well.
3. Skip the dry cleaners: Open some closets and you will find tons of dry cleaned clothes- sometimes still hanging in the plastic wrap. If this sounds familiar, it is important to know that PERC - a common chemical used in dry cleaning, was recently listed as a top chemical linked to breast cancer. What to do? Look for an organic dry cleaner and make sure they do not use PERC (since some cleaners claim to be organic and still use the chemical). When this is not an option reduce your dry cleaning and make sure you air out the clothes you bring home before putting it in your closet or on your body.
Aida is the founder of Non-Toxic Munchkin, a non-toxic living blog and consulting company who’s mission is to educate parents about the hazards of daily exposure to toxic chemicals and help them transition to a healthier and less chemically dependent lifestyle. All, while finding a balance between healthier everyday choices and living a modern day, stylish, life.
“It is not a diet. It is not a detox. It is a new way of life.”