What are some toxins I should avoid during pregnancy?

Here's a list of major toxins to avoid during pregnancy.

  • Tobacco and secondhand smoke.
  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana and other recreational drugs.
Chemicals, etc.:
  • Spray paints and paint thinners -- use latex paint instead.
  • Bisphenol A (in plastic water bottles; look for the number 2 or 4 inside the triangle on the bottom of the bottle, but not 3, 6, 7, 8, or 9; 1 is acceptable but not reusable).
  • Phthalates (in composite dental fillings; also released when plastic is microwaved).
  • Fluorotelomers (in linings of microwave popcorn bags, as well as stain-resistant carpets and furniture).
  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, which are organic compounds in fish caught from polluted waterways).
  • Pesticides.
  • Heavy metals, such as mercury and lead.
  • Organic solvents, such as toluene, xylene, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, ethylene oxide, acetone, acetonitrile (in nail salons), and formaldehyde.
  • Anaesthetic gases.
  • Excess radiation (x-rays; frequent long-haul flights) and radon. Splurge on a $10 kit, and leave it in the basement overnight to check if your house is leaking this dangerous gas from the soil.
  • Hot dogs, lunch meats, and saturated fats. They contain nitrates and methylates, which unwind the DNA that's not supposed to be unwound.
  • Trans fat (e.g., anything "partially hydrogenated").
  • High-fructose corn syrup.
  • Sushi, undercooked meat, soft cheeses (e.g., brie, gorgonzola), and unpasteurized cheese and milk.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead.
  • Accutane (isotretinoin), an acne medication.

Note: Don't stop any medications you're currently taking before talking to your doc. The issue of medicine is often a risk-versus-benefit decision. If you're at high risk of a complication by not taking your medication, you may very well be putting your baby in harm's way by stopping.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

Unfortunately the toxins we need to avoid during pregnancy aren't usually environmental as much as they are self-inflicted by the choices we make on a daily basis.

One of the biggest toxins is tobacco from the cigarettes we smoke or the second hand smoke we get from those around us.

Another toxin you may not have considered it hot dogs and lunch meats full of saturated fat, nitrates and a compound called methylate that the YOUdocs say in their book YOU HAVING A BABY, unwinds DNA that is not supposed to be unwound.

It goes without saying that alcohol and drugs should be avoided during pregnancy.

A toxin you may not have considered is RADON. It may be lurking in your home without your knowledge. It is important to know that your home is radon, lead and chemical free.

Many pregnant women want to paint the nursery. Turpentine, toluene and paint thinners are toxins. This is one argument your partner should win. Ventilation is not enough. That would be a good day to go shopping.

Avoid areas that are using pesticides and spraying chemicals.

Another toxin is the chemicals used in hair dyes and nail salons. Pregnancy is not the best time to be using synthetic nails or dying your hair. If you want to feel pampered consider a pregnancy massage instead.

And last but not least if you like me live a busy life and use the microwave and water bottles to help you eat and hydrate on the go make sure that the plastic ware has no BPA and make sure you don’t heat in plastic in the microwave but use a microwave safe glass container instead.

If you can manage it, avoiding solvents during your pregnancy is a good idea. Solvents - like those used in working with artificial fingernails - have been connected with early miscarriage and long-term learning difficulties in children exposed in utero. Women who are exposed to solvents day after day are at most risk. If you are a woman who works with solvents - applying and removing artificial fingernails, working with dry-cleaning chemicals, or house painting, for example - you can give yourself some protection by taking care to keep your work area well ventilated.

Concerns have been raised about hair dye, but research has not been conclusive. Some early studies showed a possible link to childhood brain tumors, but later studies contradicted those results. If you dye your hair, you may want to wait until after the first trimester, to have someone else apply the dye, and to use supermarket brands rather than the stronger beauty parlor dyes.

Some pesticides, including some that may be used around homes and on farms, have been linked to miscarriage. If your home needs to be sprayed during your pregnancy, stay out during the spraying and try to stay away for a day or two to allow the fumes to clear. Be sure to wash all your dishes and utensils after a home spraying.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Your placenta acts as a filter that allows nutrients to pass from mother to child. It's a nice system, except for the fact that it lets toxins through, too. Of course, the last thing you want is to provide your bubby an in-womb environment that resembles a landfill. I urge you to get rid of the most harmful toxins in your life as soon as you decide to get pregnant or once you find out you are.

Some major toxins are:

  1. Tobacco
  2. Methylates, found in hot dogs and lunch meats, unwinds DNA that's not supposed to be unwound
  3. Alcohol
  4. Marijuana
  5. Phthalates, these chemicals that mimic estrogens and have been linked to feminized fish (they increase when you microwave plastic)
  6. Radon
  7. Aerosolized products like turpentine, toluene and paint thinner. Let your partner paint the baby's room and air it out good (without you in it) while you are pregnant so none of the fumes come to you. If it is painted anytime near when the baby comes home, aggressively air it out before you and the baby come near it - breast milk can carry such stuff too.
  8. Fluorotelomers (found in paints and coatings and in stain repellents applied to materials such as carpets, paper, packaging and textiles)
  9. Bisphenol A (found in hard plastic bottles; none commonly obtained when you drink water from undamaged plastic bottles)
  10. Other bad hydrocarbons, such as in unmarinated grilled meats
  11. Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals - stay away from coal fired power plants. Also, if your occupation involves exposure to chemicals, find out what chemicals are involved and seek advice as to their fetal safety.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

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YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.