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Toxins and Pregnancy

You're finally pregnant – and the world seems fraught with dangers. Here's a guide to help you navigate through the legitimate concerns and the baseless worries.

Avoid Every Remotely Possible Risk?

Journalists Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu conducted exhaustive research because they wanted their pregnancies to be the healthiest possible. They recently published that information in a book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, that looked at "what you need to know -- from the nail polish you wear to the bed you sleep in to the water you drink."

Martinez has not read the book. But, she notes, "There's so much information out there that serious messages -- like the risk of Accutane -- get lost."

She and O'Rourke commented on a few of the risks cited in the book:

Nail polish:

"Don't worry about getting your nails done," says Martinez. "Regarding chemical exposure, we worry about chronic or acute poisoning. For example, if you worked in a nail salon and had severe headaches day after day, it would indicate there's too much toxin in the bloodstream and you would be at increased risk for miscarriage."

Alpha-hydroxy skin cream:

OK, says Martinez.

Vinyl shower curtain.

OK, says Martinez.

Wite-Out, permanent markers, and inhaling gas

when you pump: "Don't sniff them to get high," advises Martinez.

Mattresses,

commonly treated with PBDE fire retardant chemicals: OK, says Martinez.

New car

interior: OK, says Martinez.

Dry-cleaned

maternity clothes: "They're OK," says Martinez. "A concern would be for someone working in a mom-and-pop shop that doesn't meet OSHA standards."

Bottled water in certain plastic containers:

"Once opened, don't keep bottled water longer than a week," says O'Rourke. "I wouldn't re-use them. That has to do with bacterial contamination, not plastic leaching into the water. Recycle them."

Tap water:

"If you're in a public water system, it should be safe," says O'Rourke. "If you're on a well, presumably you have it tested regularly."

Plastic wrap

on food: "I wouldn't heat things up with it," says O'Rourke. "We don't know about how it breaks down."

Teflon:

"Used properly, at low temperatures with non-abrasive utensils, it's fine," says O'Rourke.

Non-organic produce:

"Levels of pesticides in conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are considered to be safe," says O'Rourke. "All produce, including organically grown, should be washed."

Get a Flu Shot

Women who are pregnant are at high risk for complications from influenza, according to the CDC. It's safe to get a flu shot at any time during your pregnancy, says Martinez. "Pregnant women are especially at risk of morbidity during the second and third trimesters."

Also, make sure you're up-to-date on any needed vaccinations before you become pregnant. Rubella, or German measles, for instance, poses a serious risk to fetuses in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Resources

Utah's Pregnancy Riskline is one of more than 30 North American services belonging to the Organization of Teratology Information Services. Detailed fact sheets, and contact information for state and regional resources can be found on their web site.

Also, the March of Dimes web site is a good source of information.

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