Are you thinking of getting pregnant in the near future? Within the next six months to year? You may already be googling terms like “what to do before you get pregnant” or “how to prepare for pregnancy”. Millions of articles will appear that tell you about the *best* form of folic acid and when to start your kegel exercises.
But what these articles will not tell you is about the importance of cleaning up environmental risks around you before becoming pregnant.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that nearly every pregnant woman tested in the United States, has a myriad of chemicals in her body that have been linked to harmful health outcomes. This does not mean that the presence of these toxic chemicals will put you or your future child in harms way, but why not reduce our exposure to these chemicals if possible?
Peer-reviewed research (which is conducted by the world’s leading scientists) also shows us that pre-pregnancy, and development in utero, are considered some of the most important “windows of development” for your future child. There is only so much we can control in this world, so it’s important not to drive yourself crazy with this research. But what is important is to make simple steps to reduce your exposure where possible. These steps are easy to implement and I have years of research under my belt to help guide you towards safer products and good companies.
And it goes without saying, but consult your doctor! I am an environmental health professional, not a medical doctor.
1- Skip the nail polish
There are safer brands of nail polish, which you can read about HERE, but I would recommend avoiding nail polish for 6 months before you would like to get pregnant. Nail polish (especially conventional brands) contain harmful ingredients that are linked to cancer and hormone-disruption. Skip the “pampering” mani/pedi when you are pregnant since many nail salons are filled with toxic air that is best not to inhale while pregnant. Instead, ask your partner to give you a foot massage with safer lotion at home. ;)
2- Switch to safer skin care & beauty products
A topic I cover on a regular basis, check out some of my favorite skin care and cosmetic products HERE to ensure that your daily beauty routine is setting you up for success. Finally, you can also read more about my favorite healthy oils for hair, skin and cooking HERE.
3- Ditch your non-stick pans and plastic
If you have Teflon non-stick pans, ditch them ASAP! Non-stick chemicals like PFOA/PFAS have been linked to cancer, birth defects and other harmful health endpoints. They are so toxic that DuPont has lost several class action lawsuits and the FDA has recently acted to remove and reduce these chemicals in the supply chain. Not all plastic is harmful, but try drinking water from a stainless steel or glass water bottle.
Also choose safer dental floss which can be coated with nasty non-stick chemicals.
4- Invest in flame-retardant-free furniture
This is a priority along with ditching your non-stick pans. “Flame-retardants” sound like a good thing, but they don’t actually slow the spread of household fires. If you’re investing in a new mattress, couch or armchair, look for a tag on the bottom (see a sample tag) that indicates the furniture does NOT contain flame retardant chemicals.
- Mattress company is Naturepedic
- Furniture companies who make flame retardant free couches
- Car seats without flame retardants
5- Sweat & exercise
Sweat and exercise are two of the best ways to “detox” your body according to Rick Smith, author, researcher and advocate. In the book Toxin/Toxout, Smith explored the different “detox diets” on the market and concluded that most of them are a scam, but that the three best pathways for naturally reducing toxic chemicals in your body were through sweat, exhalation (via exercise) and eating leafy green vegetables including broccoli.
6- Detox your mind
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re new to this issue it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There are harmful chemicals in the products we use everyday, but that doesn’t mean you or your loved ones will become sick. It simply means that we can prevent exposure where possible and let the rest of the cards fall as they may. Mediation, or simply taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath is also very important for our overall health. Daily breathing or meditation can help reduce cortisol levels in our bodies, which are stress hormones.
7- Skip canned food
Most canned food is still lined with BPA (or similar chemicals), which are known to disrupt our hormone systems. And the brands that are BPA-free often use vinyl as a toxic substitute. Always try for fresh vegetables and if those aren’t available to you, opt for frozen veggies.
8- Load up on leafy greens and protein
Leafy greens are good for us (clearly!) and they also help support “elimination” functions in your body. Broccoli for example contains a substance that helps your liver protect itself from certain poisons and attacks. Eating more vegetables is always a good thing for various reasons, energy levels, filling your body with high nutrient, low calorie foods and so much more!
9- Switch to healthier smoothies
What exactly is in that protein powder you’re putting in your morning smoothie? I am a big fan of a few products that are produced by awesome companies: BeWell by Dr. Frank Lipman and Vital Proteins, which makes sustainable collagen supplements, protein powders and green collagen blends.
10- Choose safer seafood
I recommend downloading the Seafood Watch app on your phone to help make smart seafood decisions before and during pregnancy.
Where’s the proof?
I’m a skeptic about most things, so for those of you who are reading this with one eye brow raised, I get it. Here’s what a few important studies found related to reducing one’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
1) When switching to a fresh food diet, BPA levels dropped 60% in three days
A study commissioned by the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute studied families exposure to toxic chemicals found in food packaging, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. After only three days of eating a fresh food diet, the average participant had a reduction of BPA in their blood and urine by a whopping 60%.
2) Teen girls who switched to safer cosmetics saw a 27-45% drop in certain harmful chemicals
A study by UC Berkley studied Latina teenagers, specifically their exposure to harmful ingredients found in conventional personal care products. Again, after three short days, their levels of phthalates and parabens dropped between 27-45%, respectively.
So can we prevent all environmental exposures? No, but why not make a few simple, easy steps to clean up our lives. Whether you are looking to get pregnant or not, these simple steps may be able to prevent unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals.
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Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat, diagnose or cure an illness.