Air Pollution and Pregnancy – What you Should Know
Air pollution – we’ve all heard of it, but do we really know how it affects us? Everyone is at risk of side effects from the dangerous substances and toxic gases released in the air, but at highest risk are pregnant women.
The Side Effects of Air Pollution
Anyone (including non-pregnant people) can suffer from issues with their cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems.
You may experience trouble breathing, excessive coughing, feeling tired, headaches, trouble focusing, and skin irritations. Everyone reacts differently, but the side effects can be troublesome and dangerous.
How Does Air Pollution Affect Pregnancy
Aside from the issues mentioned above, pregnant women and unborn babies are at extreme risk of serious issues.
Pregnant moms may suffer from premature labor, which puts the baby and the mom at risk. Babies born early are typically very underweight, which may affect them long-term. They may also may have not developed enough to live a healthy life.
Other issues include:
- Asthma – If you have asthma, air pollution can make it worse. While breathing difficulties are serious, if you’re pregnant, it may also cause extremely high blood pressure or preeclampsia. This is a serious issue with pregnant women that can cause liver and kidney issues on top of the breathing troubles.
Preeclampsia can cause a baby to have a low birthweight and/or be born early. If you are exposed to air pollution while pregnant, it also heightens the baby’s chance of developing asthma.
- Autism – Being exposed to air pollution, especially in the last trimester can increase a baby’s chance of having autism. It usually takes very high levels of air pollution to cause it, but it’s a risk in late pregnancy, not the first two trimesters.
How to Protect you and your Baby from Air Pollution
Air pollution is a part of life, but there are ways you can protect yourself, especially while pregnant:
- Use an air purifier in your home – Most people think of air pollution outdoors, but not indoors, but indoor air pollution is almost 10 times worse and it’s where you spend most of your time.
- Increase ventilation – If you use chemicals, cook, or paint in your home, make sure it’s well ventilated so the contaminants don’t stay stagnant in your home.
- Use natural cleaners – Avoid aerosols and cleaners with chemicals to limit the pollution introduced in your home.
- Stay inside as much as you can – You can protect the air in your home, but you can’t protect what’s in the air outside. Since your skin is your body’s largest organ, it immediately takes in what you are exposed to, and put the baby at risk.
While we can’t protect ourselves 100% from air pollution, taking a few simple steps can help ensure you protect your baby as much as possible before he/she is born. Think about the air pollution in your area and how you can protect your health.