For most women and their families, pregnancy is a time of hope and excitement. During this crucial period, the body goes through various physical and hormonal changes, which is why pregnant women need a lot of care. From books and magazines to online sources and friendly advice from family and neighbors, you'll find yourself bombarded with tips on how to keep your baby healthy and ensure safe delivery.
While much has been said about eating a balanced diet, taking vitamins, adopting a healthier lifestyle, and paying regular visits to your trusted doctor, equally important is the quality of the air you breathe.
Air pollution is more than just smoke from vehicles or toxic gases from factories. It can also take the form of dust and particulate matter floating freely in the air. It can harm you and your family's health, but the risks are even greater for pregnant women.
While there's not much you can do about the air pollution outdoors, there are plenty of ways to maintain excellent indoor air quality. In this article, we'll discuss the lesser-talked-about risks of poor air quality on pregnant women and some useful tips on how to avoid these dangers.
The Truth About Poor Air Quality and Pregnancy Risks
We all know how poor air quality can adversely affect your respiratory health, but here, we'll uncover the potential risks of air pollution during pregnancy.
2019 research found a correlation between air pollution and preterm labor. Those exposed to pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide commonly found in smoke are more likely to experience early labor. Consequently, preterm labor heightens the risk of other pregnancy issues such as low birth weight, underdeveloped lungs, and even the baby's death during or shortly after birth.
Another serious risk linked to poor air quality is a stillbirth or the death of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is supported by a 2018 study that found a correlation between exposure to air pollution and stillbirth, particularly during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Low Birth Weight
As mentioned earlier, preterm delivery caused by exposure to air pollution may result in low birth weight. A 2013 analysis of 14 population-level studies found that higher levels of certain pollutants are connected to a greater risk of low birth weight.
It's important to note that very small babies with underdeveloped lungs and other organs are more susceptible to health issues and even death.
There's also a study by the Harvard School of Public Health which found that exposure to high levels of airborne particulate matter, especially during the third trimester, may double the risk of having an autistic child. Basically, this first U.S.-wide study suggests that the greater the exposure, the higher the risk.
Health Risks for the Mother
Poor air quality during pregnancy doesn't only harm the baby. It also puts the mother at risk. A study of birth outcomes in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, found a connection between air pollution exposure and pregnancy-related complications in the mother.
Poor air quality during the trimester heightens the risk of preeclampsia and high blood pressure, which may harm both the parent and the baby. These complications may also lead to early birth.
Effective Tips to Protect You and Your Baby From Air Pollution
Now that you know the dangers of being exposed to air pollution, it’s important to take extra precautions and learn a few ways to protect yourself and your baby from these risks. Some of the tried and tested strategies include:
Check the air quality and stay inside when it’s low.
You can check your area’s air quality index (AQI) at airnow.gov. If you find out that the air quality is poor, try to stay inside. It’s important to note that even if you wear a face mask, the harmful substances in the air can still be absorbed by your skin.
Quit smoking and ban smoking in your home.
If you’re a smoker and you’ve been thinking about quitting, now is the perfect time to do so! Also, speak with your housemates and ban smoking in your home. When you’re outside, avoid areas where people smoke as much as possible.
Protect indoor air quality by opting for safer products.
What many people don’t realize is that they also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Be more conscious of the products that you use, as they may potentially introduce contaminants into the air.
You can maintain a healthy household environment by using a vent hood when cooking, buying natural household cleaners, checking for mold regularly, and installing carbon monoxide detectors.
Get an air purifier.
As mentioned, you can’t control outdoor air pollution, but you can maintain the quality of air indoors.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors, where the concentration of some pollutants can be two to five times higher than the average concentration outside their homes. One of the best ways to address this is by investing in an air purifier that filters harmful substances and cleans the air you breathe.
For the best results, use air purifiers with HEPA 13 filters that can trap even the tiniest particles, such as smoke, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. The Sans air purifier offers a three-stage filtration and UV-C light sterilization.
First, the air goes through a pre-filter that captures larger particles, such as pet dander and dust, followed by a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter that can trap particles as small as 0.3 and 0.1 microns with 99.97% and 99.95% efficiency, respectively. While the first two filters capture solid pollutants, the activated carbon filter is responsible for neutralizing harmful contaminants and chemicals that come in the form of gases.
Finally, the viruses, bacteria, and mold spores that get trapped into the filters are destroyed by pulses of UV-C light to ensure that they won’t grow on the filter and make you sick.
Air pollution can pose risks for any living thing, but it has the greatest impact on pregnant women, babies and children, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions.
While it’s impossible to completely avoid air pollutants, the tips shared in this article can help minimize your exposure, especially if you’re pregnant. If you want your baby to grow in a healthy and safe environment, make sure to keep yourself educated and be extra cautious.