Pregnant moms know well enough to steer clear of cigarettes and alcohol, but there are hazards hidden right in our kitchen cabinets—or even our bathroom! Here’s a list of some household products that may hurt your baby.
1. Cleaning products
Read the label of your household cleansers. Some oven cleaners and window cleaners use a chemical known as ‘glycol ether’ which studies have linked to higher risk of miscarriage. Mildew removers, on the other hand, can contain ‘phenols’ which have been associated with birth defects and even fetal death. Other products may be safe, but their strong chemical odors can trigger your morning sickness.
Ideally, your partner will take over cleaning the house so you can lie down and rest (after all, your body’s already busy with a very important job: growing a baby!). But if you can’t get help and your house is starting to look like a penicillin colony, switch to organic cleansers that are free of chemicals and strong odors. Another cheap, safe yet effective tool: baking soda (rub on bath tubs and ovens) or diluted vinegar (mix equal parts with water and wipe on glass and counter tops). In fact, many commercial cleansers can be replaced with homemade cleansers.
If you can’t avoid using chemical cleansers, make sure the room’s well ventilated. Open all the windows and doors, and turn on the fan.
Research shows that communities near areas that used agricultural pesticides have a higher incidence of miscarriage and fetal defects. While the results have been hotly debated (and more studies are still being conducted) it’s still better to err on the side of caution. Minimize your exposure to insect repellants, especially those that contain ‘deet.’ If you’re worried about your home’s bug infestation, have someone else spray the chemical and stay clear of the room. Change the bed sheets and curtains after you spray, and keep the windows open for at least two hours so the fumes can escape. If you’re spraying the kitchen, remove the food or place in air-tight containers. Close all the cabinets and drawers.
Trace amounts of pesticides can also cling to vegetables and fruits. Wash these well before cooking, and peel off the skin.
It’s fun to decorate the nursery, but after you’ve picked the color and theme, let somebody else do the painting for you. All paints are made from chemicals which can release dangerous fumes. While no studies have proven that they can be toxic to your baby, no studies have proven that they are safe, either. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency actually advises pregnant women to stay away from newly painted rooms for at least 48 hours.
It’s also important to choose the safest possible paint. Your best bet is water-based, indoor (or latex) paint. Oil-based paints contain solvents that have been connected to miscarriage and birth defects.
If you live in an old home, have the walls checked for lead—which was often used in paint until it was banned in 1980. Lead has been linked to a higher risk for miscarriage and developmental problems.
4. Beauty products
Most beauty products are safe to use for pregnancy, but it’s probably best to stay away from hair treatments. Dyes, permanent wave solutions and relaxers contain strong chemicals that have been associated with pregnancy complications and miscarriages. If you’re really bothered by the fact that your roots are starting to show, then choose an organic hair coloring product that uses vegetable dyes. It’s probably safer to do this at home than at a salon, where you can breathe in the fumes from other people’s hair treatments.
Feeling bad that you can’t fix your hair? Treat yourself to a manicure or a pedicure instead. Though the nail polish and nail polish remover do contain chemicals and solvents, the amount is so small—and exposure so short—that you really don’t have anything to worry about.
5. Cat litter
Your cat’s droppings can contain the bacteria that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection whose symptoms include fever and aching joints. While the disease isn’t dangerous to adults (you’ll just feel like you have a bad flu) it can be very harmful to your baby’s vision and hearing.
For your child’s safety, ask somebody else to clean out the litter box and the pet cage. Since the bacteria that causes toxoplosmosis can also thrive in raw meat, stay clear of sushi and sashimi, and make sure to cook all food thoroughly. You may also want to disinfect any cutting boards and kitchen counters with a hot water and soap solution.