As soon as that pregnancy test confirms your pregnancy, everything changes.
First up, you head to the pharmacy for folate, omegas and prenatal tablets. Then you start to question everything. Can I eat soft cheese and sushi, and what about coffee and wine? Can I dye my hair, ride a rollercoaster or go waterskiing? Is nail polish safe? What about the salami on that takeaway pizza? “Is this safe?” becomes the lens we now filter everything through.
Being pregnant means that you should be extra careful about what you put in (and on) your body. Because the child growing inside of you is extremely vulnerable and more susceptible to toxins and other dangers, you need to think these things through very carefully.
For the most part, our bodies are incredibly efficient at keeping dangers away from the developing foetus. Perfectly healthy babies are born every day with no sign of any birth defects – but often, we are unaware of the chemical burden they have been exposed to.
Unfortunately, the topic of chemical exposure in pregnancy is unchartered water. Besides the current known risks, what we are dealing with is essentially a grey area in which the research is inconclusive (mainly because no pregnant woman would volunteer themselves for these kinds of tests). Most known birth defects are due to genetic or other unpreventable causes – and are not necessarily from mom’s exposure to toxic chemicals, but the lines are still blurry and there are many unanswered questions.
Chemicals come in many forms – from paint fumes, to pesticides, synthetic food colourants, and BPA in plastic. There are also large numbers of harmful ingredients in conventional skin care products. According to the Environmental Working Group, some of the ingredients to look out for on labels and which should be avoided are:
- “Fragrance” (often contains phthalates which are hormone-disrupting plasticizers which the company is not required to disclose
- DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidzaolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15 (formaldehyde releasers)
- Propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl-parabens (mimics estrogen in the body)
- Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone (preservatives) (source)
When a pregnant or nursing woman uses products containing any of these substances, her baby is exposed to them too. All these nasty chemicals cross the placenta through the umbilical cord and enter the baby’s bloodstream.
To give your baby the very best start in life, we encourage all of you who are pregnant to be extra careful about what you expose yourself (and therefore your unborn baby) to. You can’t avoid everything – but being informed about potential dangers allows you to make empowered choices.