Obviously when your baby comes along you need to look at various aspects of your household safety. But you’ll also need to check out the safety aspects during pregnancy…..
While your home is probably a haven of peace and safety, there are elements of it which can be dangerous during your pregnancy. But, with a bit of caution and a few minor alterations, you’ll be able to sit back safe in the knowledge that you are in a danger-free environment.
The modern home is full of chemicals which are in daily use around the house. From personal toiletries to cleaning fluids, there’s an abundance of liquids and products which are unsafe for either you or your baby during pregnancy.
Some common household chemicals are teratogens. These are substances that have the potential to cause birth defects, although a lot, naturally, depends on the level of exposure to them. The problem is that we can, unfortunately, come across various types of teratogenic substance on a daily basis. These include: drugs (prescription and illegal), alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, and have the potential to be harmful to your baby. Bear in mind though that less than ten per cent of birth defects are actually thought to be caused by exposure to a teratogen.
Not enough is known about the direct effects of many of the most commonly-used household chemicals and cleaning products, so it’s better to err on the side of caution during pregnancy. If you use them in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions, chances are they won’t actually cause any harm but, if you’re unsure or wary about them, then just avoid them completely and get someone else to do the cleaning!
If you do have to use them, wear gloves and avoid direct contact with products that have strong fumes and warning labels. This category of products would include oven cleaners – which tend to be very strong – and bathroom tile cleaners, but pesticides, insecticides and fungicides would also fall into this bracket.
Inhaling dangerous fumes is obviously not a good thing for your baby, so avoid using products in aerosol cans and, if you do have to spray a substance, make sure that the windows are wide open until the spray has dissipated. Alternatively, to avoid inhaling mists or vapours, choose non-aerosol products.
In the later stages of pregnancy, you may find that the ‘nesting’ instinct kicks in. While it’s a good idea to keep yourself active, decorating the nursery – or any other room – may not be one of the best ways to spend your time. In addition to the fact that it’s not a good idea to climb ladders at this stage, it’s also best to avoid contact with:
- oil-based paint
- polyurethane floor finishes
- spray paints
- turpentine (and similar solvents)
- liquid paint removers
If you can’t afford to employ the services of a professional decorator to paint etc, or if insist on doing it yourself, then opt for water-based paints, as these are a much safer choice. The paint should be brushed or rolled on rather than sprayed and, as with the aerosol sprays, you should make sure the room is well-ventilated, and that you’re wearing a suitable face mask (a ventilation mask with a filter). A long-sleeved shirt and rubber gloves will also ensure that your skin doesn’t come into contact with the paint.
If you’re painting the nursery, then it’s a good idea to use a non-toxic paint. Many of today’s paints are made with low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Even in small doses these VOCs can act as carcinogens, and can irritate the respiratory system or cause nausea and headaches.
While it’s a good idea to try to avoid contact with lead during pregnancy, the problem is that the modern world provides many situations where you can be exposed to it.
It can, for example, get into water if it leaks from old pipes and, as a result, the drinking water can become contaminated. If you live in an older type property, let the tap run for a few minutes before filling your glass or kettle, or use a water filter.
If you indulge in hobbies such as ceramics, jewellery-making, print-making, electronics, glassblowing, or stained glass, then you will come into contact with lead, so it might be best to avoid these while you are pregnant.
Unfortunately, certain infections that can harm your baby can be picked up from pets. The main danger is from the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, which is spread through contact with cat faeces. Toxoplasmosis may produce flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all, and, as a result, you may unknowingly acquire immunity through exposure.
Although rare, contracting toxoplasmosis for the first time in pregnancy can cause serious problems, such as miscarriage or birth defects. And it’s not just cats and dogs who pose a threat! Other pets, such as caged birds and turtles, can carry salmonella bacteria, which won’t directly harm your baby, but can make you ill.
Being scrupulous about hygiene will help to avoid these infections, so wear rubber gloves when handling a cat litter box, cleaning cages where animals are kept, or disposing of dog faeces, and always, always, wash your hands afterwards. Alternatively, get someone else to do these tasks.
While household objects can create some dangers for your unborn baby, by taking a few simple precautions, you can eliminate the danger for both of you.