Chemicals Women Should Avoid During Pregnancy

A small heart beating and two tiny feet kicking every now and then– pregnancy is truly a beautiful phase for a woman. To ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy, taking care of yourself is important. 

Sure, you know the basics of pregnancy, like forgoing wine with dinner or consulting a doctor before taking any medication. But what about the chemicals you should avoid while carrying a baby? 

Experts opine that exposure to toxic chemicals during the gestation period can slow down your unborn baby’s growth and affect their brain development. 

To make sure you give birth to a healthy child, we’ve discussed a few chemicals commonly found in everyday household items that you should avoid during pregnancy. Continue reading to learn them and tips to reduce exposure to them. 

#1 Lead

Exposure to elevated lead levels in the prenatal period is linked with spontaneous abortion, gestational hypertension, and low birth weight. Numerous findings cite that prenatal lead exposure impairs the neurodevelopment of children

An early study revealed that lead exposure may influence the sensory system myelination in the brain. This could have a detrimental effect on the cognitive or learning skills of children later in childhood. 

Lead, like most chemicals, is ubiquitous. From drinking water to imported candies or foods, especially those containing tamarind and chili, an array of things contain lead. Exposure to these products will increase blood lead levels. This heavy metal can easily pass through the placenta to your baby and affect their developing bones and other organs. 

Actionable Tips

  • Install a water filter that filters lead from drinking water
  • Avoid using arts and crafts supplies, like solder, paints, and enamel, that contain lead
  • Use water-based paints to renovate your home instead of spray paints and solvent-based ones

#2 Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Exposure to dry cleaning chemicals– most notably– perchloroethylene (PERC or PCE) can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage. 

Reportedly, women working as operators at the dry cleaning or laundry units during gestation or three months before pregnancy are at higher risk of spontaneous abortion than those working as non-operators. Exposure to perchloroethylene, also known as tetrachloroethylene, is believed to be the culprit behind their miscarriage. 

A handful of studies have also found a link between inhaling PERC and an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and slow baby growth. 

In one of the largest water contamination cases in the history of the U.S., women on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune suffered repeated miscarriages and stillbirths due to exposure to PERC-containing drinking water. Around 500 women lost their babies due to exposure to the military base’s contaminated water during the gestation period. 

PCE that contaminated the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant and the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant reportedly originated from a dry cleaning business off-base, reveals TorHoerman Law. 

Last year, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was enacted to allow victims to pursue litigation against the U.S. government for health issues or injuries sustained from exposure to toxic chemicals between 1953 and 1987. Over thousands of Camp Lejeune lawsuits have been filed by veterans, their family members, and civilians. 

Lawyers estimate that the Camp Lejeune lawsuit payout per person could be between $25,000 and $1 million. However, no case has reached a settlement yet. 

Actionable Tips

  • Avoid sending your clothes for dry cleaning during your gestation period
  • Steer clear of spot removers and dry cleaners that contain PERC
  • Take leave from work if you’re in a dry cleaning business

#3 Bisphenol A (BPA)

Commonly used in the manufacturing of plastic bottles and resin materials, bisphenol A (BPA) is yet another chemical mothers-to-be should stay away from. 

High BPA exposure during the gestation period increases the risk of preterm birth and changes in gestational age, reveals a recent study. A handful of studies confirm that this endocrine-disrupting chemical can influence fetal growth in the uterus, resulting in adverse birth outcomes. How? By passing through the placenta. 

Several scientists demonstrate that the direct transmission of BPA from the mother to her developing child could affect their brain development. A 2021 NIH study reveals that prenatal exposure to BPA can increase a child’s risk of developing asthma. 

Actionable Tips

  • Use BPA-free water bottles instead of plastic ones
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers in microwave oven
  • Use stainless steel or glass containers to store food

Closing Thoughts

If you’re exposed to large amounts of toxins during the gestation period, your unborn baby will be at an increased risk of birth defects. For this reason, limiting exposure to chemicals is important. 

Apart from the ones mentioned above, pesticides, mercury, tobacco smoke, alcohol, phthalates, flame retardants, and formaldehyde are other chemicals to steer clear of during pregnancy. Search for healthier alternatives online or ask your healthcare provider for recommendations. 

Remember, the choices you make during pregnancy will have a lasting impact on the health and development of your baby.