Pregnancy

In the words of Katsi Cook, a Native American midwife, a woman’s body is the first environment. Whatever a pregnant woman is exposed to, her baby may also be exposed to; the placenta does not protect the fetus from environmental contaminants. Eating nutritious food, exercising and avoiding environmental contaminants when possible are especially important during pregnancy.

• Exposure to chemicals on the job when pregnant can be especially dangerous. For example, beauty salon workers and women working at dry cleaners may have a higher rate of miscarriage from contaminant exposures in the work place.

• Choosing healthier products around the house is especially important when a woman is pregnant. For example, studies have found that phthalates-chemicals used in vinyl plastic and some personal care products such as nail polish-may harm male babies’ reproductive organs. Pregnant women also should avoid using indoor pesticides, which can increase the baby’s risk for being born prematurely and harm its development in the womb.

Resources

Breast Cancer Fund’s Report:  The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls

Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Birth Defects and the Environment Peer-Reviewed Analysis

Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Developmental Disabilities Peer-Reviewed Analysis

Environmental Health Bulletin: Body of Evidence–Reproductive Health and the Environment

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s The Effects of WorkplaceHazards on Female Reproductive Health report

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s What You Should Know About Avoidable Risks of Birth Defects and other Reproductive Disorders factsheet

UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health