by Christopher Gavigan
During the first few weeks of pregnancy a baby's body undergoes rapid growth and each development relies on precise, successful development in the previous stage. Because so much is happening so quickly, these first weeks are a particularly vulnerable period. Since nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, living an eco-conscious, healthy lifestyle may be the best thing you can do to prepare your body for having children, planned or not.
This goes for the gentlemen, too -- toxins are known to affect the health and mobility of sperm. To prevent birth defects or other unintended health impacts, get started now. May is Pregnancy Awareness Month!
Here are 10 tips to prepare for your pregnancy:
Avoid produce with pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group, you can lower your pesticide exposure by 90 per cent simply by avoiding the most contaminated conventionally grown produce: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears.
If you're really craving one of these foods, opt for organic. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that have the lowest levels of pesticide residue include: onion, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomato, and sweet potato.
Feast on folic acid before conceiving and while pregnant. Sources include dried beans and peas, citrus fruit, spinach and broccoli. Adequate folic acid early in a baby's development helps prevent neurological defects, such as spina bifida. Note: too much folic acid may pose it's own risks, so talk with your doctor about how much you need.
Reduce consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and quit smoking. Women who smoke during pregnancy (or are exposed to secondhand smoke) are more likely to give birth to small babies with low birth weight. Alcohol and caffeine lower overall health and can negatively impact a fetus.
Ease up on animal fats. Animal products can contain synthetic hormones, antibiotics and organochlorine chemicals, such as dioxin, DDT and other pesticides, which concentrate in animal fat. The same chemicals that accumulate in animal fats are transferred to our own when we eat them. Then they linger there for years quietly causing damage.
When you buy meat, poultry or dairy, look for low fat options (get the unsaturated fats your body needs from plant sources like walnuts, flax seeds, and avocadoes). Trim all fats and skins and broil meats and fish so that the fats drain away. Avoid frying, which will lock in the contaminants. You can also do your body a favor by reducing how much meat you eat. Making even one vegetarian meal a week can make a big difference.
Select safer seafood. Eating seafood is the primary way we are exposed to methylmercury, a potent neurotoxin. Fish can also be contaminated with PCBs, which are a probable carcinogen. Still, fish are an important source of good fats known as Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Eat seafood in moderation and choose types with lower levels of contamination like Herring, Mackerel, Anchovies, Clams, Wild Alaskan Salmon, Shrimp, Tilapia, and Black Sea Bass.
Get smart about plastics. Some plastics cause dangerous pollution during manufacturing and some contain chemicals suspected of causing harm -- especially to developing fetuses. Avoid those numbered 1, 3, 6, or 7 (PC). These resin codes are typically on the bottom of an item in a triangle of arrows.
When using any plastic, be safer by not using in the microwave or with hot food (the heat promotes leaching). Discard or stop using for food and beverages when the product begins to have signs of wear and tear. Also, ban the can. Canned foods and beverages are lined with a plastic resin that contains bisphenol-A, a hormone-disrupting chemical. Many manufacturers are beginning to explore safer alternatives, but in the meantime you should choose foods that are fresh, dried or frozen or packaged in glass jars.