For those that are expecting, it can be both exciting and nerve wracking to dream about what the future holds and what experiences will come with the new addition to your family. Having a baby also carries with it a long list of worries and questions about how to keep your little one safe and healthy before and after they’re born. I am sure we all know to make sure we’re meeting our nutrient needs, routinely visit with our gynecologist and not eat certain foods. Unfortunately, my love for fish has to take a backseat for the next 40 weeks. But not a lot of us know or are concerned about pollution. Believe it or not – it can affect your baby!
It’s not a fun topic to think about, because it doesn’t seem like much can be done. Although avoiding every single pollutant out there is next to impossible, there are ways to reduce the amount you’re exposed to and therefore keep your child as healthy as possible. One of the quickest ways is to keep the air in your home clean and fresh, but before diving into that lets cover some other simple things you can do to keep your baby and you healthy.
What is pollution?
Let’s dive into what it actually is first. It’s defined as a harmful or poisonous substance already in or being introduced into the air. Most people think this topic only affects us on a global scale, but it actually can have an impact on an individual level as well.
In 2017, the American Lung Association’s reportedly found that people who live with excessive amounts of toxins may increase their chances of an early death, lung cancer, asthma, and cause harm to their development and reproduction. For those of us that are pregnant, too much exposure can lead to your baby being underweight, a preemie, and even affect their health and development after they’re born.
Statistically, the number of Americans affected by this issue went from 166 million to 125 million in 2016, but that still doesn’t mean we can afford not to worry about it. It’s an important issue that we need to be made aware of.
Common outdoor toxins and their effect on your child’s health
No matter if it’s a big city, a suburb or a rural town, these harmful toxins are everywhere. Even though we can’t see or smell them, remember that they’re still dangerous. Unborn babies and infants may have a higher chance of becoming ill due to pollution, but don’t forget that mothers can also be effected.
Below we describe the most common outdoor contaminants and the risks associated for men, women and infants.
Diverse substances in particles range in size, but smallest ones are (generally) most dangerous. Those that occur through crude emission or discharge of sulfur and oxygen compounds or VOCs are typically the most dangerous one for us and our babies.
Ground-level ozone and smog
Ozone by itself is a harmless layer made up of three oxygen atoms that acts as a barrier between us and sun’s rays. Created through man-made chemicals interacting with crude transmission of VOCs. Ground-level ozone combined with particulate matter, heat and sunlight forms smog, be careful not to come in contact with to much smog. It can cause some of the mentioned problems with your pregnancy and your child’s health.
- Low birth weight
- Infant mortality
- Infants/children exposed may develop asthma
- Study in 2013 found that women carrying a baby exposed to ground-level ozone had a higher probability of developing preeclampsia, characterized by hypertension that can affect mother and baby
Secondhand tobacco smoke
Secondhand tobacco smoke from friends, family or your surroundings
- Tobacco smoke is harmful to everyone’s health
- Current smokers even before getting pregnant are encouraged to quit by physicians
- Quitting smoking or not ever having smoked is not always enough to protect your baby
American Pregnancy Association states that secondhand smoke can cause miscarriage, low infantile weight, early delivery, learning or behavioral deficiencies or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Common pollutants found inside the home and their effect on your child’s health
Coughing, wheezing, skin, throat and eye irritation are all symptoms to look out for. No examinations have linked mildew to an increased chance of problems during pregnancy. However they can still cause medical and respiratory problems. Checking for and preventing fungus is vital before, during and after pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and their baby
May get into homes through open windows and doors, as well as getting onto clothing and into the house that way. Breathing in high amounts of spores can increase the possibility of your baby developing asthma early in life
Dust is among the most common pollutants inside the home. Dust is also known to cause allergic reactions in those susceptible. Not to mention the constant sneezing and itchy eyes that are almost always associated with allergies.
Carbon monoxide and NO2 are released from appliances like gas stoves, fireplaces, space heaters and dryers. According to a report published by Environmental Protection Agency, these everyday appliances can reduce the capacity of a mother’s blood to transport oxygen, thereby making it difficult for the fetus to receive enough. Epidemiological and animal toxicological research suggest that longer term inhalation of ambient CO, especially during the first trimester, may increase the possibility of premature birth, stunted growth during pregnancy, cardiac birth defects and hearing loss.
(Even minimal amounts of carbon monoxide can be dangerous).
If you look close enough you can find VOCs present nearly everywhere from sterilization products to paint to cosmetics; worst problem is that they all are released as gases. Types of VOCs are Formaldehyde, acetone, benzene, and ethylene glycol. Just like similar contaminants before it VOCs are also linked to childhood asthma.
How to reduce your child’s health risk
Now that the dangers are clear, there are steps we can take to reduce exposure. Although completely reducing it isn’t realistic, these methods will go a long way in assuring us moms and our babies are healthy during pregnancy and after birth.
Watch the Local News and stay alert for any Air-Quality Warnings
Airnow.gov is a great website that gauges how much pollution there is where you’re at. That way determining whether it’s safe or not to go outside is simple and easy. In other words, when the toxic substances are lower and when they’re higher. This is excellent to use for children, because it’s easy to figure out when it’s safe to let your kids play outside and when to bring them back in.
When you exercise or walk, stay away from congested traffic areas.
Goes without saying, but particularly particulate matter and ground-level ozone, are higher around places like these and highways due to the presence of gases. Since you’re breathing more and much deeper when exercising, it also means you’re breathing in more of the not so good stuff. It’s best to find another location to exercise in. Hiking, for example, is a great way to exercise. Taking a walk in the park may be better for those that are trying to take it easy.
Avoid harmful synthetic ingredients
For anyone and everyone, it’s best to steer clear of synthetic ingredients like those found in paint fumes and household cleaning products, or make sure you’re airing out rooms when you do use them. In addition, use products with a minimal amount or no VOCs, and use alternative products like vinegar and baking soda instead of intense or strong ones like bleach. Personally I find that vinegar and baking soda do an excellent job at cleaning, and the best part is that it doesn’t stain. Just to really be on the safe side, have a family member or friend do the dirty work as a favor while you’re pregnant.
Use an Air Purifier
This is my personal favorite, because it can have a huge impact on the amount of toxins you’re exposed to. Plus it also just feels good knowing you’re in an environment that’s as clean and pure as possible, and keeping your family healthy at the same time. For buyer suggestions, head over to our homepage, we have purifiers that get rid of a variety of toxins, pollens, viruses, and mildew. Since I started to using one, the house has been less stuffy and it’s been easier to breathe.
Pregnancy can make even the most cold blooded of us hot, then cold, then hot again. It’s good to change the filters on your conditioning and heating units, because dirt, dust, pet dander can get trapped and even mildew which can be released into the air.
Keep your home mold and dust free
I’m sure that by now everyone knows that these aren’t good for you, and can have a negative impact on your health. Make sure you’re checking for fungus, dusting regularly and keeping your home at the right humidity levels. At my house, I regularly go into the bathrooms and underneath sinks, since those are often places that get wet. It’s also recommended to inspect walls that tend to leak, inside your fridge, and once again your air conditioner. For more information on how to inspect for mold and how to prevent it, then go to this article for more info.
Relax and Keep Your Stress Low
Last but not least, make sure you’re taking time out of your day to relax. I know it can be hard for most of us, but finding something that’s relaxing is important, especially when you’re pregnant. Researchers have found that it can make the impact of exposure worse according to Tracey Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. When I am feeling overwhelmed by all of the business of the day, bubble baths never seem to fail me, snuggling up with a favorite book, or cuddling on the couch with my husband.
The best part is that these tips can lessen hay fever reactions to dust and pollen when you’re at home, which is really beneficial. Moreover, conditions like low weight during infancy, childhood allergies and asthma, and developmental problems are a parent’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, this knowledge is available, so that your family can be healthy and well taken care of.