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Environmental Chemicals and Pregnancy

Under normal lifestyle and dietary conditions, the level of exposure of most women to individual environmental chemicals will probably pose minimal risk to the developing fetus/baby. However, women who are pregnant are exposed to hundreds of chemicals at a low level. Potentially, this exposure could operate additively or interactively and raises the possibility of ‘mixtures’ effects. On present evidence, it
is impossible to assess the risk, if any, of such exposures. Obtaining more definitive guidance is likely to take many years; there is considerable uncertainty about the risks of chemical exposure. The following steps would however reduce overall chemical exposure:

- Use fresh food rather than processed foods whenever possible

- Reduce use of foods/beverages in cans/plastic containers, including their use for food storage

- Minimise the use of personal care products such as moisturisers, cosmetics, shower gels and fragrances

- Minimise the purchase of newly produced household furniture, fabrics, non-stick frying pans and cars whilst pregnant/nursing

- Avoid the use of garden/household/pet pesticides or fungicides (such as fly sprays or strips, rose sprays, flea powders) 

- Avoid paint fumes

- Only take over-the-counter analgesics or painkillers when necessary

- Do not assume safety of products based on the absence of ‘harmful’ chemicals in their ingredients list, or the tag ‘natural’ (herbal or otherwise).

It is unlikely that any of these exposures are truly harmful for most babies, but in view of current uncertainty about risks, especially those relating to ‘mixtures’, these steps will reduce environmental chemical exposures. Do not assume safety of products based on the absence of ‘harmful’ chemicals listed.