We all know about the guidelines from the CDC for pregnant women to eat fish no more than two times a week to prevent high mercury levels in their bodies. But what about bisphenol-A, dioxins, formaldehyde, pesticides, flame retardants, and more than 200 other chemicals found in babies’ umbilical cord blood?
Studies by the Environmental Working Group as well as the Columbia Center For Children’s Environmental Health have found many toxins in women’s bodies that get passed on to their babies in utero.
While no studies have demonstrated a conclusive cause and effect between exposure to these toxic chemicals and specific health problems in children, environmental toxins have been associated with increased incidence of infertility and miscarriage in women, as well as genetic defects, cancer and developmental disorders in children. This information may seem scary and discouraging, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your toxic load.
You may consider undergoing a prenatal detoxification before getting pregnant. This would be especially beneficial for women who have undergone a clomid cycle or a hormone-assisted insemination or IVF procedure that didn’t result in pregnancy. Many women experience symptoms such as bloating, weight gain, hot flashes or mood changes that indicate that the body is out of balance and may need assistance in clearing out exogenous hormones.
Detoxification lowers the toxic load in a woman’s body through 3 pathways:
- activating the liver to bind up heavy metals and chemicals to be eliminated through the gall bladder and the bowels
- supporting the kidneys to excrete impurities through urine
- mobilizing the lymphatic system and skin to expel waste through sweating
There are also several things you can do to limit your exposure to environmental toxins.
While it’s nearly impossible to avoid getting any toxins and chemicals into your body, here are some things you can do to reduce your exposure:
Stop smoking and alcohol consumption three months before conception to reduce fetal exposure to carcinogenic toxins.
Eat organic whenever possible to avoid pesticide-laden, antibiotic and hormone-filled food. Eat fresh, whole foods and avoid packaged and processed foods that are filled with preservatives, artificial colors and flavors.
Get plastics out of your life. Replace plastic water bottles, food containers and cooking utensils with glass, enamelware and wood. Filter your own water at home with a good water filter and put it in a glass or stainless steel bottle and carry it with you. Be sure to drink 6 to 10 glasses of water daily depending on your activity level.
Replace all household cleaners and pesticides with natural substitutes.
Install and remodel with non-VOC carpet, paint and real wood products – avoid pressboard cabinets, and furnishings to avoid formaldehyde and other chemicals.
Replace bedding and mattresses with those made from organic cotton stuffed with natural wool and horsehair that are not treated with flame retardant chemicals.
In summary, there are several things you can do to reduce your toxic load and thereby enhance your health and support the health of your baby. You can start by implementing the suggestions listed above to decrease your exposure to environmental toxins. You may also consider attending a detoxification retreat or working with your healthcare practitioner on a detox program before getting pregnant.