Pollutant risks in pregnancy

It’s impossible to avoid pollutants entirely, but there are some measures you can take to reduce your exposure:

Avoid polluted environments, notably industrial areas and busy roads. (Pregnancy is a good time to motivate for regular trips to the country!) Remember that indoor environments can be even more polluted than outdoor ones: especially, avoid those where people are smoking.

Put off renovations, or live somewhere else while they’re underway. Renovating your home involves the use of several potentially harmful chemicals e.g. in paint, glues, paint stripper and new furnishings. Also, the processes involved generally produce a lot of dust, some of which, notably dust from old leaded paint, are a recognised health threat. You have a right to be protected against renovations at work too.

Reduce the chemical load in your home. Cut down on cleaning and ‘sanitising’ products – especially artificial air fresheners and pesticides, which have been shown to have potentially damaging effects on foetal development. Experiment with simply using less of a product less often, and harnessing the cleansing and disinfecting powers of fresh air and sunlight. It’s not a bad idea to cut down on the amount of personal care products and cosmetics you use too.

Cut down on animal fats. Certain heavy metals and toxins accumulate in fatty tissue, so choose fat-free dairy products, and, if you eat meat, consider cutting down, and go for lean cuts.

Despite concerns about mercury, the current consensus is that fish is an excellent food source for pregnant mothers – so don’t cut it out altogether. Two fish meals a week is generally considered to be fine. Fish on the menu for pregnant moms?

Be a bit warier about sushi and other raw fish dishes, however: Health24's DietDoc, Ingrid van Heerden, recommends sushi no more than once or twice a month for pregnant women.

Add more certified organic fruit and vegetables to your shopping trolley, as a way to reduce the amount of pesticides you potentially may be taking in with food.

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