The top 10 toxins + chemicals to avoid while trying to get pregnant

We checked with some of our most trusted experts on mom and baby wellness.

The top 10 toxins + chemicals to avoid while trying to get pregnant

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 conceive 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:
  • Methylparaben
  • Proplyparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • 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

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reminds mothers-to-be to stay away from Bisphenol A, aka BPA: “Bisphenol A is found in food, consumer products and packaging, and exposure occurs through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption." It has been linked to recurrent miscarriage.

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

Dr. Yaqub suggests you taper off using your beloved face creams in the months before TTC.

“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.

Try this: Use Glycolic acid and vitamin C products instead.

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."

Need help quitting? has a no-judgment guide to quitting smoking. There's even a SmokefreeMOM text message service to give you the inspiration and tips you need.

Certain hair dyes

Need to get your hair did? ?

“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.

Over-the-counter supplements

“Try to avoid over-the-counter supplements and medicines other than your prenatal vitamins—it's hard to tell what's in pills because the nutraceuticals industry is not regulated by the FDA," Dr. Yaqub says. “ is a great place to find info on the top prenatal vitamins in terms of quality."

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.

Acetone-based products

“Be careful with nail polish and remover," Dr. Yaqub suggests.

Try this: If you want to paint your nails, use a more natural polish like Zoya or Deborah Lippmann, and remove polish with an acetone-free nail polish remover.

House paint + paint products

Take caution before setting up drop cloths and painting the nursery.

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.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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