4 Toxins To Avoid During Pregnancy And Beyond
"Minimize the exposure as much as you can as the dose makes the poison"
Is your 2021 resolution to live a little healthier? Or maybe you're planning to expand your family and want to avoid your baby's contact with chemicals in the womb? A 2005 study done by the Environmental Working Group investigated chemicals found in newborns' umbilical cord blood and found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in each right after birth. Those included harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage - scary!
We have spoken to a functional medicine health coach, Dora Toma, about how to help you avoid 4 of the most critical toxins before, during and after pregnancy:
1) Bisphenol-A (BPA) and the rest of bisphenol family
The chemical BPA, initially created to be used as a synthetic estrogen in hormone replacement therapy, never got to the pharmacy shelves, but instead became very popular in the plastic industry as additive in products like plastic containers, baby bottles, as well as lining of canned food containers. BPA is also used in toiletries, feminine hygiene products and electronics to name a few other use cases.
Unfortunately, BPA is not stable and it leaks when for example the plastic container stores liquids or if it's exposed to heat, and then it makes its way to your body.
Due to the estrogenic effect of Bisphenol chemicals, they are considered hormone disruptors and may interfere with fertility. High levels of BPA also seem to increase the risk of miscarriage. When it comes to babies, BPA can be harmful to their reproductive system, as well as blood sugar metabolism, which can lead to future obesity and diabetes. Some research links prenatal BPA exposure to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.
Majority of Americans have BPA in their bodies. In fact, a CDC study showed that more than 92% of urine samples from US residents are positive for BPA and the chemicals had been detected in amniotic fluid, placenta tissue, cord blood, and even breast milk.
An important note: BPA-free plastic is not better than BPA. BPA-free often means that Bisphenol-A is replaced with Bisphenol-S (BPS) or Bisphenol-F (BPF), however even small concentrations of BPS and BPF may disrupt the function of your cells in a way similar to BPA.
How to avoid BPA, BPS & BPF:
- Use glass or stainless steel water bottle and Tupperware instead of plastic
- Avoid the plastic lids from the coffee shop mugs
- Replace all plastic toys with wood, silicone, or organic cotton toys
- Avoid buying canned foods and oils in plastic bottles and look for the ones in glass jars
Phthalates is a group of chemicals also found in plastic packaging, plastic products as well as many personal care products we use every day, like lotions, shampoos, nail polishes and perfumes.
These chemicals can also interfere with hormonal systems, and lead to pregnancy loss, preterm birth and your baby's development issues. Harvard Medical School refers to a study which showed that children whose mothers were exposed to phthalates during pregnancy were more likely to have problems with motor skills, and another that showed that the children of mothers exposed during pregnancy had problems with language development.
While it's nearly impossible to fully avoid Phthalates, there are a few steps you can take to minimize your exposure to them:
- Minimize the amount of plastic packaging you're getting, especially anything with the number 3 or 7 on them. Use glass, ceramic, or metal containers for food and drink
- When using plastic, do not microwave it, and wash it by hand rather than in the dishwasher to minimize the chemical leakage
- Avoid any products that have on their ingredient list things like “Perfume”, “Fragrance” or “Natural fragrance” as these words alone can hide hundreds of undisclosed chemicals within them
- Read labels on cosmetics and personal care products. Consult the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database for safer alternatives
Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products, so they can be found in many items like lotions, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo, but they are also added to medication and certain food products. If the product you are using contains methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, it has parabens.
According to Scientific American individual products may contain limited amounts of parabens, which are within safe limits set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but our cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems. Parabens are said to be linked to breast cancer and reproductive toxicity amongst many other health issues.
Dora also points out that parabens affect sex hormone levels and thyroid hormone levels in pregnant women, which raises the concern for the baby’s brain development.
How to avoid Parabens:
- Read labels and check Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database for safer alternatives
- Choose preservative-free products when possible
- For cosmetics, some of the safer preservatives are ethylhexyglycerin, gluconalactone, pentylene glycol, sodium levulinate and chlorphenesin
- Opt for fully natural products, f.ex. natural deodorant
- Avoid ingredients like “Perfume”, “Fragrance” or “Natural fragrance” hiding up to hundreds of undisclosed chemicals within them
DIY: Do some research on products you can make yourself at home where you can control all the ingredients. For example, here's a good recipe for a homemade moisturizer
Pesticides also interfere with hormone levels in the body and, like the chemicals found in plastics, they may alter your reproductive system and the development of your baby. Pesticide exposure during pregnancy has been linked to several health issues, like impaired brain development, infertility, semen quality, testicular, prostate, ovarian and breast cancer, and malformations of the genital organs.
How to avoid Pesticides:
Buying solely organic produce may not be sustainable in our modern life, but the safer approach would be to choose the organic when it comes to the foods found in the Dirty Dozen list and allowing yourself to have conventional produce that are in the Clean Fifteen list.
Last but not least, remember that what we put on our bodies is as important as what we put in it, especially when it comes to babies' thin and absorbent skin. Apart from picking the right creams and lotions, avoiding chemically treated clothing and/or clothing made from pesticide heavy crops, like conventional cotton, is another step towards safety from harmful toxins.
The good news
If it seems like you have no chance to protect yourself and your baby from the negative impact of these offenders, the good news is that you don’t have to avoid them completely. Instead, minimize the exposure as much as you can as the dose makes the poison.
If you want to learn more about how to create a cleaner environment for yourself and your growing baby you can consult with a Functional Medicine Health Coach. They can help you identify the problem areas you need to address first, evaluate your options, and help make a plan to implement the new habits in your life, so they will last forever.
For more information about Dora and her work, check our her website at www.mothernurturecoach.com or follow her on IG @dora.healthcoach