Lifestyle Hazards to Avoid While Pregnant
Your social habits
Whether you're pregnant or are planning to conceive, now is the time to do a safety check on your social habits and home and work environment. Anything that could affect your well-being could affect your baby too, especially in the first trimester. However, don't become overly anxious. Instead, arm yourself with the facts so that you can avoid hazards, but also relax and enjoy your pregnancy.
The decision to have a baby may inspire you to review your social habits and, if necessary, make changes.
Ideally, you should stop smoking before you get pregnant. If you're still smoking once you conceive, try to stop right away. If your partner or friends smoke, ask them not to smoke in your home or anywhere near you. Inhaled cigarette smoke interferes with the supply of oxygen to the baby, which can lead to a low birthweight and increases the risk of stillbirth or the death of a baby in the first month of life.
Recreational drug use
In addition to damaging your own health, recreational drugs are not advised in pregnancy since some pose dangers for the fetus and others carry a range of possible hazards.
Heroin and cocaine are damaging both to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. These drugs stunt fetal growth, affect the placenta, and can cause miscarriage or premature birth, as well as health problems in the newborn. Babies born to women who use heroin often show drug withdrawal symptoms. A report on ecstasy linked the use of this in pregnancy to a rise in birth defects, such as limb abnormalities. The specific effects on the fetus of amphetamines and LSD are unclear, but it's safest to avoid them.
The direct effects on the fetus of the active chemicals in marijuana are not clear, but smoking the drug involves the same risks as tobacco smoking.
Hazards at home and other common concerns
Many of us use chemicals daily in and around the home. In addition to personal products, such as bath oils, deodorants, and hairsprays, we also keep dozens of other substances around the home, including cleaning fluids, detergents, bleach, and air fresheners.
When products are used in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions, there is little chance of them causing harm in pregnancy. However, minute traces of chemicals can enter the bloodstream, either through the skin or by inhalation, and cross the placenta. While there is no hard evidence to show that this has an ill effect, it makes sense to minimize the chances of chemicals from reaching a developing baby.
When using products, wear rubber gloves to prevent skin contact and ventilate rooms. To avoid inhaling mists or vapors, choose nonaerosol products. Also, choose products recommended for their low environmental impact, which contain fewer chemicals. Where possible, use natural alternatives to chemicals.
Painting and decorating
It's important to stay safe while doing home projects. Don't climb up ladders or stand on tables to reach high places since your belly alters your center of balance. Also avoid skin contact or inhalation if you use oil-based paints; spray paints; paint strippers; floor varnishes; and sealant adhesives. Make sure rooms are well ventilated while decorating, and, ideally, get someone else to do the decorating.
Pets and infections
Certain infections that could harm the fetus can be picked up from pets. The parasitic infection toxoplasmosis is spread through contact with cat feces. It may produce flulike symptoms, or no symptoms at all, and many unknowingly acquire immunity through previous exposure. However, although it rarely happens, contracting toxoplasmosis for the first time in pregnancy can cause serious problems, such as miscarriage or birth defects. Other pets, such as dogs, caged birds, and turtles can carry salmonella bacteria. Salmonella infection doesn't directly harm the baby, but can make a pregnant woman ill.
Being scrupulous about hygiene helps you avoid such infections. Wear rubber gloves when handling a cat litter box, cleaning cages where animals are kept, or disposing of dog feces, then wash your hands (and the gloves) afterward. Wear gloves also for digging or weeding in case animals have defecated in the garden. Or get someone else to do these tasks.Toxoplasmosis and salmonella can also be contracted from eating undercooked or raw meat or eggs, so be careful with kitchen hygiene and cooking.
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