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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.

Antihistamines:

"There's little data on newer antihistamines. The older ones work by causing vasoconstriction [constriction of blood vessels], so there's some concern about using them in the first trimester." Examples of antihistamines include Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, and Benadryl.

Aspartame:

"not a lot of information".

Caffeine:

"ACOG and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that moderate use, about a couple of cups per day, does not increase reproductive risk. Many people who use caffeine also smoke and drink alcohol, so it's hard to tease out caffeine. Is it the smoking, caffeine, alcohol? Or do they work synergistically? It's not clear."

Occupational chemical agents:

"Fertilizers might pose a problem for agricultural workers, but for occasional residential use, you don't have to leave your house when your lawn gets fertilized. Working in an office where you use Wite-Out or permanent markers is not a concern, but tell your physician about occupational exposures in industrial or agricultural environments. A lot of obstetricians don't think to ask about occupational exposure."

Oral contraceptives:

"If a woman continued taking oral contraceptives because she didn't know she was pregnant, I would tell her to stop. There have been some problems in terms of birth defects. The doctor will take a look at possible interactions and perhaps use an ultrasound to look at the fetus. What has been reported is a less than 1% risk of masculinization of the female fetus."

Pesticides:

"If you have your house sprayed for bugs routinely, I'd be concerned; but if it's a one-time exposure, use common sense. Pesticides have real risks, but most of the data involves agricultural workers."

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:

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