What to avoid when you’re expecting

report out this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology says women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, should avoid environmental toxins that can affect the development of a fetus – and even have life-long health effects. The list includes mercury in certain kinds of fish, lead in paint in older homes and some cosmetics, pesticides and chemicals called endocrine disruptors such as BPA found in some plastics.

Easy steps you can take at home include taking off your shoes at your front door, to keep toxics out of your house. Eating less processed and canned food. Avoiding plastics with recycling codes #3, #6 and #7.  And not using chemical tick and flea collars or dips for pets. More details:


  • Risk factors: Exposure can come from eating some types of fish, contact with quicksilver, and use of skin-lightening creams. Exposure during pregnancy can lead to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes that include lower IQ, poor language and motor development.
  • Reducing exposure: Pregnant, preconception and breastfeeding women should follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state-specific fish consumption guidelines. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and large tuna. (Not all fish is dangerous and growing babies benefit from the good fats in fish – talk with your doctor about what’s safe and how much to have.)
  • Find more information about mercury here.  


  • Risk factors: Risk factors for exposure include recent immigration to the U.S., occupational exposure, imported cosmetics, and renovating or remodeling a home built before 1970. Lead is neurotoxic to a developing fetus.
  • Reducing exposure: Never eat nonfood items (clay, soil, pottery or paint chips); avoid jobs or hobbies that may involve lead exposure; stay away from repair, repainting, renovation and remodeling work conducted in homes built before 1978; eat a balanced diet with adequate intakes of iron and calcium; avoid cosmetics, food additives and medicines imported from overseas; and remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in lead and other pollutants.
  • Find more information about lead here. 


  • Risk factors: Exposure can come from eating some produce and from using pesticides in your home or on your pets. Exposure to pesticides in pregnancy has been shown to increase risk of intrauterine growth retardation, congenital anomalies, leukemia and poor performance on neurodevelopmental testing.
  • Reducing exposure: Do not use chemical tick and flea collars or dips; avoid application of pesticides indoors and outdoors; consider buying organic produce when possible; wash all fruits and vegetables before eating; and remove shoes at the door.
  • Find more information about pesticides here.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals 

  • Risk factors: Human prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with changes in male reproductive anatomy and behavioral changes primarily in young girls. Animal studies suggest prenatal exposure to BPA is associated with obesity, reproductive abnormalities and neurodevelopmental abnormalities in offspring. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals mimic or antagonize the effects of hormones in the endocrine system and can cause adverse health effects that can be passed on to future generations. 
  • Reducing exposure: Decrease consumption of processed foods; increase fresh and/or frozen foods; reduce consumption of canned foods; avoid use of plastics with recycled codes #3, #4 and #7; be careful when removing old carpet because padding may contain chemicals; and use a vacuum machine fitted with a HEPA filter to get rid of dust that may contain chemicals.
  • Find more information about endocrine disruptors here.

Are you pregnant, or trying to become pregnant? What steps are you taking to insure that your baby’s healthy? Let us know.