Why a Pregnancy Detox is Important and How to Do It
Staying healthy during pregnancy goes beyond eating nutritiously and exercising. Green living expert Aida Garcia-Toledo from thetot.com and Non-Toxic Munchkin talks about the importance of a chemical detox for expecting mamas and their unborn babies. Thetot.com is the premier destination that offers trusted advice with mindfully curated safe, non-toxic, innovative and stylish products for conscious parents in a world of overwhelming choice.
When you first learn that you’re pregnant, your doctor will immediately tell you how important it is to stay healthy. Some of the staple recommendations include continuing (or beginning) regular low-impact exercise, eating healthy foods, taking pre-natal vitamins, and avoiding alcohol.
What’s equally as important as each of these tips is to start avoiding harmful chemicals found in everyday household items. This is because both pregnancy and fetal development are considered “windows of susceptibility,” or periods in life when we’re more vulnerable to harm from chemicals. For a developing fetus, being exposed even to small amounts of certain chemicals can result in negative health effects sometimes apparent at birth and sometimes not until years later. Chemicals with the ability to mimic the balance of hormones, affect the developing brain, and even cause organ damage are all found in everyday items that a pregnant woman may be unknowingly exposed to.
So what should you do if you’re trying to conceive or are already pregnant? In addition to switching to clean beauty products, you may consider a more general detox. Simply put, this means trading everyday products that contain biologically harmful chemicals for safer options that are either naturally derived or synthetic.
While it may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s where to start.
Makeup, body lotion, body wash, shampoo, cleaning products, home fragrances, and candles often contain fragrance chemicals. There is an important difference between fragrances that come from organic essential oils (which are mostly safe) and synthetic fragrances made in a lab by mixing many chemicals together (which are often not safe).
When you read the word “fragrance” or “perfume” on an ingredient list, it can represent dozens—or even hundreds—of different chemicals. Citing “proprietary protection,” many companies don’t disclose the specific chemicals used in their fragrances, yet brands that don’t have anything to hide will often gladly share this information with their customers. So it’s important to pay close attention to ingredient lists and be suspicious of companies that don’t disclose their specific fragrance formulas (or any other ingredients for that matter).
Among the main concerns with synthetic fragrance is that it can contain hormone-mimicking chemicals, commonly referred to as endocrine disruptors. Research has linked fetal exposure to endocrine disruptors to a number of health issues, including undescended testicles, infertility, testicular cancer, and other hormone-related problems in the developing baby.
Tips for Avoiding Toxic Fragrance Chemicals:
- Choose fragrance-free products or products that use organic natural essential oils for fragrance (but, please note, some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy).
- Switch to non-toxic and organic personal care and makeup products.
- Make your own cleaning solutions or purchase cleaning products that do not contain added synthetic fragrances.
- Stop using dryer sheets, which can contain fragrance chemicals.
- Open your windows at home daily and consider naturally fragrant plants or flowers in lieu of artificial fragrance sprays, scented candles, and plug-ins.
2. Bisphenols (BPA and BPS)
You might think you’re already doing a good job of avoiding BPA, however, one U.S study published in 2018 found that more than 90% of adults and children had BPA in their urine; just under 90% tested positive for BPS, which is typically used as a substitute in “BPA free” products. The main sources of these chemicals are hard clear plastics, store receipts, canned food, and sports bottles. Bisphenols are known endocrine disruptors.
Tips for Avoiding Bisphenols:
- Request an email receipt instead of a printed version wherever possible.
- Choose fresh food and avoid canned food as much a possible, or choose cans with a BPA-free lining.
- Swap plastic for glass or stainless steel, especially with food storage containers. Take care to never reheat food in the microwave in plastic containers.
Many women might unknowingly be exposed to this powerful neurotoxin, which even at low levels can cause permanent brain damage in an unborn baby. Lead is still found in drinking water in many households and public water fountains around the country. Those who live or work in a building constructed before 1978 (when lead in paint was banned) might inhale lead-tainted dust from old and chipping paint. Even health-focused home gardeners could be growing their crops in contaminated soil if the garden is near a building that was painted before 1978. Finally, some popular lipsticks still derive their color from pigments that contain lead.
Tips for Avoiding Lead:
- Test your water for lead and other contaminants. This will help determine if you need a water filter and if so, the best type to invest in.
- If you live in a home built before 1978, be cautious about any cracking paint. Do a home lead test and if it’s positive, consult with a lead specialist.
- Make your lipstick doesn’t contain even minuscule traces of lead. Consult EWG’s Skin Deep database if you’re unsure, or shop with a clean beauty retailer like Follain.
According to research published in 2010, the FDA found that nearly one in five cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Other common sources of formaldehyde are pressed wood products (kitchen cabinets, furniture, and even some toys), carpets, wallpaper, wrinkle-resistant textiles, and cleaners. While it may be impossible to avoid all sources of formaldehyde, you can definitely reduce your exposure to it.
Tips for Avoiding Formaldehyde:
- Formaldehyde can build up in the air in your home, especially if you have new furniture or carpets, or are remodeling. Opening your windows daily—even for a couple of minutes—can help reduce the levels of formaldehyde you’re exposed to.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products or homemade versions.
- Avoid wrinkle-resistant fabrics for your bed linens and clothing. When possible, choose organic fabrics made from natural fibers such as cotton, flax, or linen.
- Make sure any composite wood products you purchase either specify that they’re made with formaldehyde-free adhesives or adhere to California’s CARB 2 standards (currently the strictest in the world).
- Consider buying an air purifier if you suspect your indoor air is contaminated. This is also helpful if you live in a city with a lot of traffic or in an agriculture area where pesticides may be found.
For makeup and personal care products to have a longer shelf life, many companies use synthetic preservatives called parabens. These help prevent the growth of bacteria, microbes, yeast, and mold. However, parabens are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen, and they’ve been linked to reproductive toxicity, early puberty, and breast cancer. A study conducted in England discovered that 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled contained paraben esters.
Tips for Avoiding Parabens:
- Read labels. More and more companies are making paraben-free products and they often promote this prominently on their packaging. You should also review ingredient lists; while labels on cosmetics and personal care products can be intimidating, it’s quite easy to spot a paraben, as the ingredient will end with “-paraben.” Methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben are all common.
- Seek out beauty and personal care products that are made using ingredients you recognize; safer preservatives include antioxidants, honey, and tocopherol. When buying paraben-free products, pay close attention to sell by and expiration dates; ignoring these might expose you to bacteria. If you’re concerned, choose products made in small batches to ensure freshness.
- Shop at a clean beauty retailer or buy European cosmetics. The EU has banned over 1,300 potentially harmful chemicals from cosmetics, including a number of parabens. This compares to the U.S., which has banned only 11 toxic chemicals and none are parabens.
- Pregnancy Is a New Window of Susceptibility for Bisphenol A Exposure
- Fetal and Neonatal Endocrine Disruptors
- Environment, susceptibility windows, development and child health
- BisphenolA Fact Sheet
- Exposure to Bisphenol A, Bisphenol F, and Bisphenol S in U.S. Adults and Children: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2013–2014
- Effects of BPA and BPS exposure limited to early embryogenesis persist to impair non-associative learning in adults
- Paper receipts in Michigan loaded with hormone-altering chemicals
- Lead toxicity: a review
- Lead Exposure In Children Affects Brain And Behavior
- Lead in Lipstick
- What Causes Cancer: Formaldehyde
- Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk
- Cosmetics Containing Ingredients Linked to Cancer or Reproductive Harm
- Exposing the Cosmetics Cover-Up: Is Cancer-Causing Formaldehyde in Your Cosmetics?
- Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens
- Amended Safety Assessment of Parabens as Used in Cosmetics
- Parabens in Cosmetics
- Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum
While we maintain high standards with our Restricted Ingredients List, if you are pregnant or nursing, we always recommend consulting your physician with any concerns.
Aida Garcia-Toledo | April 23, 2019