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Smoking: Smoking cigarettes throughout pregnancy is one of the single most important avoidable causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes and it represents the first major environmental risk of the unborn. If compared with other risk factors in the perinatal period, exposure to tobacco smoke is considered to be amongst the most harmful and it is associated with high rates of long and short term morbidity and mortality for mother and child. A variety of adverse pregnancy outcomes are linked with cigarette consumption before and during pregnancy. Maternal prenatal cigarette smoke disturbs the equilibrium among the oxidant and antioxidant system, has negative impact on the genetic and cellular level of both mother and fetus and causes a large quantity of diseases in the unborn child. These smoking-induced damages for the unborn offspring manifest themselves at various times in life and for most only a very limited range of causal treatment exists. Education, support and assistance are of high importance to decrease maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality, as there are few other avoidable factors which influence a child’s health that profoundly throughout its life. It is imperative that smoking control should be seen as a public health priority.
The fact that smoking cigarettes throughout pregnancy is one of the single most important avoidable cause of adverse pregnancy outcomes, resulting in severe short- and long-term negative effects for the mother and the unborn child has been proven by many different studies. It can be regarded as the first major environmental risk factor that can be encountered by the unborn in the developed and undeveloped world. If compared with other risk factors in the perinatal period, exposure to tobacco smoke is considered to be amongst the most harmful. The byproducts of combustion are believed to inflict more damage on the fetus than the nicotine itself, but due to the complexity and number of dangerous substances it is unknown which toxic effect is caused by exactly which product. This is especially significant as the majority of the smoking-induced harm for the unborn fetus is permanent. Even today modern medicine offers very little or no therapeutic treatments for the long-term negative consequences of being exposed to smoke in-utero. According to a 2010 study from the USA, one of the most significant behavior changes a future mother can make is the complete cessation of smoking in pregnancy, with numerous health benefits for both the woman and her offspring.Passive smoking: Smoking is a strict no-no during pregnancy. But what about second hand smoke? Well it’s equally bad for you and your baby. To stay away from the toxic second-hand smoke avoid visiting the smoking zone of your office often, ask your spouse to stay away from you while he smokes. Know why you should quit smoking during pregnancy.Harmful radiations at your workplace: You can be exposed to radiations of all kinds either at home or at your workplace. Knowing the culprits help you deal with them better. For instance, the blueprint photocopier at your workplace emits ammonia and acetic vapours that can cause irritation in the eyes, throat and nose. Even the photocopying machine emits harmful ozone vapours. Your constant companions – the laptop and the smartphone – are no less hazardous. They are all known to emit low grade radiations throughout. ‘All electronic items send out radiations which are known to cause intrauterine growth retardation and interfere with the brain development of the fetus. However know that the exposure levels have to be really high to cause any noticeable damage in your baby,’ says Sonali Shivlani, an Internationally Certified Pregnancy, Lactation and Child Nutrition Counselor. As a precautionary measure limit your usage of electronic items during your pregnancy. This will ensure that you harm your baby less with your everyday work. Stop working overtime and stay away from your smartphone and laptop once you get home. For the same reasons avoid frequenting the Wifi-network areas for long hours.
Pets: Pets can be fun and also double-up as your stress buster during pregnancy, but their presence can pose a threat to your wellbeing at times. In case your pet sheds too much fur you can be at a risk of developing a respiratory infection during your pregnancy which can harm the fetus. Cleaning the litter of your pet especially your cat or your dog, can increase your chances of getting infected with toxoplasmosis, an infection that is transmitted from the faeces of diseased animals. If you pick up an infection chances are that you can pass on the infection to your baby escalating the chances of a stillbirth or a miscarriage. To avoid this occurrence make sure that you take your pet to a veterinary doctor before planning your pregnancy.
Bathroom and furniture cleaners: While picking up a bathroom or floor cleaner check that it doesn’t contain a certain chemical called ‘creosol’ which can be easily absorbed through the skin and contribute towards fetal damage. For the same reason give furniture and tile cleaners loaded with turpentine and sodium phosphate a miss as they can also cause considerable damage to the baby if inhaled and give rise to skin irritation in the mother. Instead use Ylang Ylang oil in a bucket of water with neem powder to clean your bathroom and the floors. Alternatively use baking soda mixed with water to clean your furniture and scrub your tiles.
Laundry detergents: Next time you take your clothes for dry cleaning ask if chemicals like benzene, sulfuric acid or toluene are used as spot removers. These chemicals that are easily inhaled and absorbed through the skin can cause skin rashes and give rise to complications in your baby’s developing nervous system. Ask for alternatives to chemicals or stick to the normal method of cleaning and drying at home.
Kitchen appliances: Microwave ovens or any other kitchen appliances that leak radiant heat carry a potential risk to damage your baby. Have your microwave and other kitchen appliances that run on electricity checked during your pregnancy. Do not use any appliance that is rusted. Give the microwave a miss if the seal around the doors are damaged or the door doesn’t shut properly. Also stay away from the oven when it is in use.
Lead exposure: If you are planning a renovation of your house then know that pregnancy is not a good time to get it done. The lead in the paint or the inhaled scrapes of the wall (while scraping is done) can lead to a lead allergy or infection in the expectant mum and this can affect the fetus as well. This can cause retarded growth and give rise to birth defects too.
Chemical radiations: In case your work requires you to visit manufacturing plants or you stay close to one that increases your chances of inhaling large amounts of fumes, solvents or other toxins, think of ways to reduce their effect. Either look for a job change or talk to your employer for a different kind of placement. In case of your home, try to relocate at a place where you can breathe in more of fresh air. ‘The mother’s exposure to chemicals especially during the first trimester of the pregnancy can cause damage to organ development phase of the fetus and also result in certain birth defects,’ says Sonali.
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