We checked with some of our most trusted experts on mom and baby wellness to craft this simple guide to chemicals, toxins and environmental hazards to steer clear of when you’re trying to get pregnant and when you’re pregnant.
Here are the 10 crucial chemicals to avoid for a safe + healthy pregnancy:
Parabens in cosmetics & beauty products
Dr. Aaliya Yaqub, a doctor who specializes in whole-life wellness, cautions women to pay attention to the chemicals found in makeup, creams and soaps.
Read labels and avoid anything that has the word “paraben” in it. Some examples include:
- Sodium butylparaben
(Note: Most commercial makeup brands use parabens.)
“Try to minimize or eliminate them in the six months leading up to conception and during the conception process,” she says. “They’re a type of preservative that prevents bacteria growth, but they can mimic certain characteristics of estrogen so they can reduce your chances of creating healthy eggs.”Try this instead: “The downside of not using parabens is that the makeup might not last as long, but Honest Beauty is great for this,” Dr. Yaqub says.
Dr. Kimberley A. Thornton, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at RMA of New York, says it can’t hurt to cut back on caffeine.
“There have been many studies on whether or not caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth, and the results have been unclear,” she says. “It does appear that moderate caffeine consumption of less than 200 milligrams per day (approximately one eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee) is safe during pregnancy. If you are consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, it is a good idea to begin cutting down your caffeine intake prior to pregnancy,” she explains. Get down to one cup a day (or less) before you become pregnant.
BPA in plastic containers & cans
Here’s what you can do to avoid BPA, according to the NIH:
- Don’t microwave plastic food containers. Over time they may break down from overuse at high temperatures and release BPA.
- Check the recycle codes on the bottom of plastic containers. Some (but not all) plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
- Reduce your use of canned foods.
Try this: When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids. Instead of canned beans, buy dry beans and soak them yourself.
Retinoids & retinols in skin care products
“Stay away from retinoids and retinols (often found in anti-aging creams and cosmetic products),” she says. “Retinoids are related to vitamin A and when taken by mouth can cause harm to developing embryos and fetuses.”
To play it safe, it’s good to reduce them from your topical regimen, too.
Tobacco & cigarette smoke
“Smoking is not only bad for your health overall,” Dr. Thornton reminds us, but “the chemicals in cigarette smoke speed up the loss rate of eggs and can affect a woman’s fertility. Women who smoke often go through menopause earlier than nonsmokers. Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to low-birth-weight babies.”
Certain hair dyes
“Vegetable-based hair dyes are okay while TTC or pregnant,” Dr. Yaqub explains, “but avoid others, as they may be absorbed through the scalp.”
Try this: Choose vegetable dyes as well as methods like hair painting and highlighting, which keep chemicals away from your scalp.
Try this: Ask your doctor which prenatal vitamin is best for you to make sure you’re getting all key nutrients. Herbivores, be sure to ask which ones are vegan/vegetarian.
Scented perfumes & sprays
“Avoid synthetic fragrances, which can disrupt hormone levels,” Dr. Yaqub says. “Often the ingredients aren’t listed on bottles.” Also keep an eye on home deodorizer sprays, which can contain similar chemicals.
Try this: To play it safe, steer clear of fragrances for now. Pure essential oils are one alternative, but ask your doctor about which ones are safe for you, too.
House paint & paint products
Exposure to spray paint, wall and furniture paints, and fabric dyes and paints has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and birth defects—and the risk is especially high in your first trimester. Play it safe and let someone else go to town on your walls.
Try this: Hire a professional—or at the very least, use protective gear like gloves and a mask.