What is toxin exposure during pregnancy?

Toxin Exposure During Pregnancy

Exposure to toxins during pregnancy: Overview

Toxins are things that can harm your unborn baby. They may be chemicals or fumes in your home. Or you may be around things in your community that can be harmful. Some foods and medicines may also be dangerous for your baby.

Some toxins could hurt your baby right away. Others are harmful if you or your child are around them for years.

The best way to keep you and your baby safe is to know what is dangerous. Then you can be careful to avoid those things as much as possible.

Some things that can harm a growing baby include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Illegal drugs.
  • Vitamins, herbal supplements, and home remedies.
  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana.
  • Tobacco smoke and vaping.
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood.
  • Unwashed fruits or vegetables.
  • Soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, and Roquefort.
  • Cold lunch meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats.
  • Fish with high levels of mercury. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. Mercury can harm your baby's nervous system.
  • Dry cleaning solvents, pesticides, and paint remover. Fumes from these chemicals can harm your baby.
  • Radiation. The level of radiation in most X-rays is too low to harm your baby. But while you are pregnant, it is still best to avoid X-rays you don't need.
  • Some long airplane flights can expose you to radiation. If you have to fly often, talk to your doctor.
  • Lead in old pipes or paint in older homes. Lead can cause a miscarriage or birth defects.

Is radiation exposure safe during pregnancy?

A single X-ray, such as a dental X-ray, will not harm your fetus. But it's a good idea to avoid unneeded X-rays during pregnancy. Many X-rays can be delayed until after pregnancy.

If X-rays are needed, be sure to tell the technician that you are pregnant. The X-rays can be done with a lead apron that shields your belly.

The radiation from electrical appliances such as televisions, computers, or electric blankets has not been shown to cause birth defects. You can use an electric blanket or water bed heater to warm the bed, but it is a good idea to turn it off when you get into bed so that you don't become overheated.

The amount of cosmic radiation that's considered safe during pregnancy is 1 millisievert (mSv). An occasional airline flight doesn't pose a risk. But if you fly often on business or as an airline employee, you could get more cosmic radiation than is thought to be safe. Be sure to talk about your risk with your doctor or midwife.

Is radiation exposure safe during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, try to avoid unneeded X-rays. Many X-rays can be delayed until after pregnancy. But a single X-ray will not harm your fetus. If X-rays are needed, be sure to tell the technician that you are pregnant.

How can you avoid exposure to toxins during pregnancy?

  • Do not drink alcohol. This includes beer, wine, and hard liquor.
  • Do not smoke, vape, or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Do not use marijuana or illegal drugs.
  • Check your home for peeling lead paint.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries as recommended by the manufacturers.
  • Do not use pesticides or herbicides.
  • Limit remodeling, painting, and craft projects if they involve toxic chemicals.
  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. Limit some other types of fish, such as white (albacore) tuna, to 4 oz (0.1 kg) a week.
  • Do not eat more than 12 ounces of fish a week. You can eat shrimp, halibut, salmon, pollock, and catfish. They are lower in mercury. Check with your state fish and game commission about whether fish caught in local lakes, rivers, or ponds is safe.
  • Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Do not eat sushi, homemade Caesar salad dressing, and cookie dough.
  • Avoid soft cheeses and other unpasteurized milk products.
  • If you have a cat, have someone else clean the cat litter box. When gardening or handling soil, wear gloves. Wash your hands afterward. You can get a disease from cat feces that may harm your unborn baby.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbal supplements, or home remedies without checking with your doctor or pharmacist first.
  • Ask your obstetrician about any medicines that another doctor has prescribed.
  • Keep your follow-up appointments. If you think you are being exposed to something toxic, ask your doctor about it.

Exposure to toxins during pregnancy: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You think you have been exposed to a toxic substance.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have questions about whether something is safe for you or your baby.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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