Three Reasons to Green Your Pregnancy

by Tara M. Bloom

pregnant womanLiving green is usually associated with big occasions like Earth Day. You don't have to wait until April 22 each year to focus on being environmentally-friendly. I want to share three important benefits to your baby that come with making greener choices during your pregnancy.

Why "green" your pregnancy? Your baby's first environment is your body. The cleaner your body, the better environment you provide for your baby.

Reason #1: Make Your Baby Smarter

By eating more organic foods before, during and after pregnancy, you decrease your baby's exposure to pesticides. Fetal pesticide exposure is now being linked to lower IQ and delayed cognitive and motor development. As recently as February 2011, a study showed a link between fetal exposure to pyrethroid insecticides, commonly used home pesticides, to delayed cognitive and motor development.

But the research about pesticide exposure and fetal development has been growing in the last decade.

From The Organic Center: A growing body of scientific data links prenatal pesticide exposure (where the pesticide residues in a mother’s diet cross the placenta during fetal development) and exposures during the first years of a child’s life to a variety of health issues, including low birth weight, birth defects, abnormal neurological development and reproductive problems.

Recent studies from 2006 and 2007 suggest a correlation between fetal exposure to organophosphates -- food pesticides -- and cognitive impairment.

From the Environmental Working Group: Minority children residing in New York City were found to be at greater risk of attention problems, ADHD and pervasive developmental disorder if they had been exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb, as measured by umbilical cord blood concentrations at birth (Rauh 2006). Children of farmworkers in California's Salinas Valley performed more poorly on standardized neurobehavioral tests when their bodies carried residues of dialkyl phosphates (organophosphate metabolites) in utero or during early life (Eskenazi 2007).

The best way to "green" your pregnancy to reduce baby's exposure to pesticides is to choose organic fruits and vegetables. By eating more organic foods before, during and after your pregnancy, you not only help our soils and water stay cleaner, but you help your baby's developing brain stay cleaner and smarter, too.

Reason #2: Boost Your Baby's Immune System

By helping to clean up dioxins in the environment and minimizing your exposure to dioxins at home during pregnancy, you help reduce your baby's exposure to them and their harmful, life-long effects on his developing immune system.

Dioxins are highly toxic environmental pollutants that result from the use or incineration of chlorinated compounds (think bleaching paper pulp and cotton). They're also a consequence of the manufacture of insecticides and pesticides, smelting and other industry. The bad news is that dioxins are so universally prevalent that nearly every person in the world is contaminated with them. The really bad news is that scientists from both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agree that the most vulnerable population affected by dioxins are unborn babies, whose fetal exposure to dioxins may impact their developing brains, reproductive systems and lifetime immunity.

In a report on dioxin, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that cancer is not the most serious health hazard at common exposure levels. The greatest global health concerns about dioxin, their report said, are subtle effects on fetal development and the immune system that may be the result of very low levels of exposure.

Reduce your body’s load of dioxin—and help minimize your baby’s exposure to it in utero—by cutting out chlorine in your household before, during and after pregnancy.