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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.
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Preconception and Pesticides

“There is no question that there are causal associations between some -- not all -- pesticide exposures and infertility or pregnancy compromise, including miscarriages and birth defects,” Schettler says. Avoid exposure by using natural pest control methods in your home and yard. The EPA provides information on integrated pest management and beyondpesticides.org offers information on natural pest control methods. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this is especially important during the first trimester of pregnancy, when a baby’s nervous system is developing rapidly.

What about pesticides on your plate? Although there's no proof that eating organic will ensure a healthier pregnancy, it is a great way to lower your exposure to pesticide residues. If you can't go totally organic, Evans recommends consulting the “Dirty Dozen” list put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). It lists the 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Pre-Pregnancy Health and Home Cleaning Products

You may also want to think about how you clean your house. Some cleaning products contain solvents that can be hazardous at high levels of exposure. There are a number of natural cleaning products on the market that don't contain harsh chemicals. Look for ones that don't contain harsh solvents, fragrances, chlorine, or ammonia. Or you can make your own. Baking soda can be used as a powdered cleanser to scrub greasy areas, pots and pans, sinks, tubs, and ovens. A solution of vinegar and water can be used to clean countertops, windows, and other surfaces.

Preconception Care: Are Plastics and Dry Cleaning Safe?

Some plastic wrap and containers contain phthalates, which can leach out when heated in a microwave. Although government and industry consider phthalates to be safe, one study found that pregnant women with higher levels of phthalates were more likely to have baby boys with slight changes to their genitals.  

As an alternative, use glass containers to store food, and use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap when your microwave.

When it comes to dry cleaning, some doctors say that clothes laundered by conventional dry cleaning pose no risk to pregnant women; others say to avoid them altogether. The biggest concern is around perchloroethylene (“perc”).

"We know that perc exposures occur from clothes that are brought into the house, and we know that perc easily crosses the placenta and gets into the baby,” Schettler says. "It also gets into breast milk." Choose clothes that don't need dry cleaning, or look for a dry cleaner that uses a water-based process. If you have some clothes that have to be dry cleaned, hang them outside and let them air out before bringing them in.

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