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Get a Head Start on a Healthy Pregnancy

Planning on getting pregnant? This guide to preconception care will help you make healthier choices about avoiding toxins.

Pre-Pregnancy Health: Your Drinking Water

Generally, water from the tap is safe. Your local water utility is required to provide a Consumer Confidence Report that lists contaminants detected in your water. If you haven't received a report, you can call your water utility and request one.

If your home has lead pipes, lead solder on copper pipes, or brass faucets, significant amounts of lead can leach into your drinking water. Exposure to high levels of lead during pregnancy can contribute to miscarriage and preterm delivery, and to low birth weight and developmental delays in babies. Your local health department or water supplier can advise you how to get your water tested for lead and other contaminants.

If there are contaminants in your water, you may want to install a water filter that is certified by NSF International, and which removes lead as well as other pollutants.

Pre-Pregnancy Diet: What About Fish?

Many women worry about mercury in fish. Mercury can harm a baby’s nervous system and may lead to learning disabilities. But you don't want to miss out on the health benefits of fish, either: Fish and shellfish are high in protein, low in fat, and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. This benefits babies’ brain and vision development, and may reduce your risk of pre-term labor.

You can limit your risk by eating certain kinds of fish and avoiding others. The FDA and EPA advise women who may become pregnant to avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, which tend to have higher levels of mercury. They also recommend eating up to 12 ounces a week (about two meals) of fish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, clams, salmon, pollock, catfish, canned light tuna, or tilapia.

Freshwater fish caught in rivers and streams can have very high levels of mercury. For information on the safety of freshwater fish in your area, check with your state fish advisory. You can also use the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector to help find the safest options.

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