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Your Environment During Pregnancy

During pregnancy toxic substance can:

  • Affect the overall health of a woman
  • Reduce the delivery of nutrients to the baby
  • Circulate in the mother's blood, pass through the placenta, and reach the developing fetus - even at low levels
  • Increase the risk for birth defects
  • Increase potential for low-birth weight baby
  • Cause premature birth or miscarriage

What in your home and environment should you be aware of?

Exposure to certain substances in the environment when you are pregnant may affect your pregnancy or the health of your baby. There is increasing evidence that environmental pollution including exposure to everyday substances, even at low exposure levels, can have major health impacts to all people. It’s important for you to be aware of the things you come in contact with in your environment that may affect you or your pregnancy. Take action now to protect yourself, your pregnancy and your baby after birth from being exposed to environmental pollution and toxins.

Why take action now?

The risk is greatest in the womb while different organs and systems are developing. Try to make changes before your baby is born. It is important to create a healthy environment for infants and young children are more susceptible to pollutants than adults because:

  • They are still growing and they breathe in a greater volume of air than adults
  • They breathe through their mouths, more so than adults, increasing the risk of exposure to particulates and fibres that would otherwise be filtered by the nose
  • Relative to their body weight and size; children eat, drink and breathe more than adults. They also have a faster metabolism. They are exposed to more contaminants found in the air, soil, dust, water, food and consumer products.
  • Children do things differently than adults. Small children explore the world by crawling and are closer to the ground where more contaminants are found. Children tend to put dirty hands and objects in their mouths.
  • There are many different stages of growth from conception, birth, childhood to 18 years of age. Exposure to contaminants at various stages can affect how a child develops.
  • Children have a longer lifetime ahead of them. Exposure to some contaminants can cause permanent damage right away. Other contaminants can build up and be stored in body fat, bone or brain tissue where health problems may not become obvious for a long time, or until adulthood.

Top 5 tips to decrease risks and exposures to toxins

  1. Use non-toxic cleaning products. Baking soda is a good scrubbing powder for sinks and tubs, and vinegar mixed with water works well for windows, surfaces and floors.
  2. Wash your hands frequently
  3. Take your shoes off when you come home
  4. Bust the dust.
    Dust is a major route of exposure to toxic substances, most of which come from consumer products. Clean with a damp cloth, vacuum or wet mop at least once a week, twice a week if you have a crawling child.
  5. Open windows to air out indoor air pollutants/toxins.
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Most women can safely work throughout their pregnancy without any harmful effects on their baby. However, there may be situations in your workplace that you need to be aware of to make healthy decisions for you and your baby. Occupational exposure to chemical products in both parents has been shown to cause health problems in children. Problems range from low birth weights and developmental delays to congenital anomalies and cancer.

Talk to your employer

Let your employer know you are pregnant as early as possible to plan ahead. If you anticipate challenges as your pregnancy progresses, offer suggestions and ask for ideas. Be flexible and willing to negotiate.

Managing work & family

Work and family life are difficult to balance for many people. Pregnancy is new territory and brings new considerations. This is a good time to re-think priorities and the pace of your lifestyle.

  • Keep healthy snacks handy
  • Rest when you feel tired
  • Identify your sources of stress
  • Use relaxation techniques and physical activity to reduce stress
  • Schedule time to do things you enjoy
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns
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Avoid having medical and dental x-rays or CT scans while you are pregnant. Radiation can pass directly through the mother's body and harm the baby. Make sure to let your health care provider know that you are pregnant to prevent unnecessary x-rays during pregnancy.

Hot tubs

When you are pregnant, extreme heat can make your body temperature too high. If your body temperature is elevated for a prolonged period, it can cause birth defects in the baby. To be safe, it’s best to avoid hot tubs and saunas.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Pregnant women should take steps to minimize their exposure to all chemicals. If possible, avoid eating and drinking from tableware or bottles made of polycarbonate plastic. Follow Canada's Food Guide (external link) and eat a variety of food. Fresh or frozen foods are preferable to canned foods, if possible. Use glass dishes for microwaving foods. Never microwave polycarbonate plastic dishes. BPA FAQs (external link).

Source: Region of Peel Public Health (external link)

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