reposted with permission – https://www.hvac.com/blog/what-expecting-mothers-should-know-about-indoor-air-pollution/
Pregnancy is a time of growth and many expectant parents use this time to educate themselves. Books, articles, videos, in-person classes — pregnancy resources abound in our modern world. And one of the most common pregnancy safety questions expectant parents ask is: “What should I avoid when I’m expecting?”
Smoking, alcohol and certain medications usually top the list. Other culprits include soft cheeses, deli meats and fish with high mercury levels. But what about contaminants in the air?
According to the American Lung Association, common outdoor air pollutants include ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Toxic air pollutants can come from burning fuels, vehicle exhaust, building emissions and other sources. However, most people spend 90% of their time indoors.
With recent research showing that air pollution can significantly impact mothers and babies, pregnancy is a good time to consider your home’s heating, ventilating and air-conditioning ( HVAC ) system. Humidifiers and air purifiers can help with indoor air quality, but if the source of your air, your HVAC system, isn’t clean, those additional measures won’t matter.
An informed decision on the heating and cooling components you use can affect your air quality. Depending on the temperature where you live, your home might require a furnace-air conditioner combination to heat and cool your home. A heat pump can be a great option for more moderate climates. Because heat pumps don’t use combustion, there is no risk of carbon monoxide filling the air of your home.
No matter how you choose to heat and cool your home, one thing is certain: clean air is best for everyone, and especially for pregnant mothers and newborns.
Studies have found links to adverse health outcomes because of poor air quality. Some affect women before or during pregnancy, while others appear in babies or even older children.
After a typical, healthy pregnancy, a full-term baby usually weighs between six and nine pounds. Low birth weight is defined as less than 2,500 grams, or five pounds, eight ounces. The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 8% of babies in the United States are born with low birth weight.
Multiple studies have observed the effects of air pollution on birth weight. One study conducted in Los Angeles investigated obstetric records of births by non-smoking women. Mothers living in more polluted areas gave birth to babies who weighed, on average, 314 grams, or 0.69 pounds, less than infants who were born to women residing in less polluted areas.
Another study from China observed women who were pregnant during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a two-month period when the city was required to lower emissions and improve air quality. The study revealed mothers who were eight months pregnant during the Olympics gave birth to babies who were 0.8 ounces heavier, in contrast to women who delivered during the same calendar months in previous years.
Babies born before the 37th week of gestation are considered preterm and are at risk for neurological disorders and permanent physical disabilities, as well as for breathing difficulties, cardiac problems, an inability to maintain body temperature, an immature digestive system and retinopathy. While premature birth can happen to anyone for many reasons, air pollution is one possible reason you should try to avoid.
Several studies have found links between air pollution and preterm birth. One by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York revealed that “in 2010, about 2.7 million preterm births globally — or 18% of all preterm births — were associated with outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter.” A Swedish study published in 2013 showed a correlation between first-trimester ozone exposure and the incidence of preterm birth, while a National Institutes of Health study suggested air pollution exposure during a second pregnancy may increase the chances of preterm birth.
According to a 2014 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, expectant mothers who are exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter during the third trimester could have twice the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than pregnant women living in areas with low particulate matter. The researchers did compile data during all three trimesters of pregnancy, but they noted that the “only statistically significant association” between fine particulate matter and autism spectrum disorder occurred during the third trimester.
The study followed women from 14 states in all regions of the continental United States. It also considered factors such as population density, elevation and distance to freeways and other particulate sources, like power-generating utilities and waste combustors.
For pregnant women who have asthma, as long as it is well controlled, the condition poses no significant risk to the mother or the unborn baby. Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy, however, can lead to high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia or premature delivery. No matter how well controlled a person’s asthma, air pollution can worsen asthma symptoms.
In addition, recent research has shown air pollution exposure during pregnancy may increase the likelihood of the baby developing asthma later in life. A 2016 study looked at the role of air pollution from traffic sources in urban areas. Researchers discovered that “children whose mothers lived close to highways during pregnancy had a 25% increased relative risk of developing asthma before the age of five.”
Multiple studies, including a 2018 systematic review of literature, have suggested that “air pollution could represent a matter of concern for female infertility.” In fact, one study found that fertility rates in northern California increased when eight plants burning coal and oil closed down, reducing the levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.
Scientists have also devoted much effort to studying the effects of air quality on miscarriage, often called spontaneous pregnancy loss in the medical community. They have concluded that “short-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollutants was associated with higher risk for spontaneous pregnancy loss.”
When it comes to air pollution and pregnancy safety, researchers have also found links to increases in gestational diabetes in expectant mothers, high blood pressure in childrenand delayed psychomotor development. However, it is important to note that most studies so far have established only correlations between polluted air and disease, rather than a direct cause and effect.
While the research is compelling, remember, in some cases, scientists have not determined which time period — week, month or trimester — is most susceptible to the dangers of air pollution. In addition, most studies have focused on outdoor air pollutants, so more research is necessary to understand the effects of poor indoor air quality on pregnancy.
According to the EPA, outdoor air pollutants can affect human health, harm the environment and cause property damage. Interestingly, the EPA has reported that “the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”
How is this possible? One reason is inadequate ventilation. Scientists who have studied sick building syndrome found that designers in the 1970s made buildings more airtight in an effort to improve energy efficiency. The reduced ventilation negatively impacted the health of building occupants. More recent standards from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers require an increased outdoor airflow rate.
What’s the application to homes, where we spend the majority of our time? Most residential structures are designed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can “leak” into and out of the home. When not enough outdoor air enters a residence, pollutants can build up, according to the EPA’s resource, “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality.”
Outdoor air enters and exits a house by three methods: infiltration, natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation. Infiltration means that outdoor air flows into the house through openings like joints, around windows and doors, and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings. Natural ventilation is when air moves through opened windows and doors.
An example of mechanical ventilation is a fan that intermittently vents to the outdoors, removing air from one room, such as a bathroom or kitchen. A larger air handling system uses fans and ductwork to regularly extract indoor air and deliver filtered outdoor air throughout the house.
When infiltration, natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation are not adequate, indoor pollutant levels can rise. Most immediate effects of poor indoor quality are similar to the common cold or other respiratory viruses. Therefore, it can be difficult to know if the symptoms are related to air quality or minor sickness. If you experience troublesome respiratory symptoms, try to note the time and place they occur. If they go away or decrease when you’re away from home and return when there, this could mean poor indoor air quality is to blame.
When it comes to pregnancy safety, it’s important to investigate the air quality in your home even if you’re not experiencing nagging respiratory symptoms. Some health effects show up only after years of repeated exposure to poor air quality, and these can be as serious as cardiovascular disease or cancer. Here are some actionable steps to check your home’s air quality:
Check for signs of ventilation problems. According to the EPA, these include “moisture condensation on windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central heating and air-cooling equipment and areas where books, shoes or other items become moldy.” Other possibilities are a gas stove, certain building materials and synthetic or treated upholstery.
You might also consider testing your home for radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Inexpensive testing devices are available, or you can hire a professional to conduct testing. Local and state health departments often have consultants who can help with identifying and solving problems related to indoor air quality.
You can reduce the concentration of indoor air pollutants by increasing how much outdoor air is entering your home. Weather permitting, the simplest ways to improve ventilation are to open windows and doors, run window or attic fans and operate a window air conditioner with the vent control open. Another option is using bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors, eliminating toxins from the room and boosting the outdoor air ventilation rate.
If you are doing a temporary activity that can release pollutants into your home, it’s essential to have good ventilation. Examples are painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene, welding or sanding. When possible, move those activities outdoors.
If you have a traditional HVAC system or furnace, the EPA recommends changing the filter every 60-90 days. Make sure to buy the correct size; it should fit snugly so air does not leak around the filter.
You might also consider adding a portable air cleaner to your home. This is a separate unit that filters gases or particles, even the fine matter that is considered most harmful. There are different types of air cleaners, and effectiveness varies widely. Most air cleaners filter either particulate matter or gases, so if you’re looking to reduce both, you will probably have to purchase two units.
Another possibility is to switch to a heat pump, a decision that depends on climate, budget and personal preference. The average cost of a heat pump ranges from $700 for a ductless mini-split system to $13,000 for a geothermal heat pump system. Regarding air quality, heat pumps do not use combustion and, therefore, do not produce harmful emissions.
Pregnancy is usually a joyous time for expectant parents as they anticipate a new baby. But it can also feel overwhelming when digesting new information, budgeting for baby expenses and preparing your home for your baby’s arrival.
By maintaining your HVAC system, you can find reassurance by avoiding costly breakdowns and repairs. The last thing you want during an already uncomfortable pregnancy is a home that’s too hot or too cold. Having a well-kept HVAC system ensures the air you breathe is clean, giving your baby a greater chance of protection from the risks of poor air quality.
Many expectant mothers might spend time carefully inspecting ingredient lists and conducting online research to guarantee these things are safe for your growing baby.
Breathing clean air, thanks to a maintained HVAC system, is just as essential as the healthy food and hydrating beverages you put into your body during pregnancy. The source of your home’s air is your HVAC system, and it’s important to understand its condition, both on the interior and the exterior, during pregnancy and when welcoming your new baby into the home.
April Leiffer Henry is a writer, wife, mom of three, Diet Dr. Pepper addict and dark chocolate lover. She has channeled her borderline obsessive interest in pregnancy, birth, lactation and well-woman care into a freelance writing business that helps women’s health professionals and birth workers publish awesome website content. Her work has been featured on Her View From Home, MyWorth and Creative Revolt.
Disclaimer: This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Who doesn’t love an old wives’ tale? Alright, maybe they’re not for everyone, but expectant mommies are often curious about clues that might give them some insight on what gender their baby will be, whether they’ll be bald for months or born with golden locks, or when they’ll deliver. A lot of people believe these alleged myths are nothing more than that, but a few of them actually have solid roots in science.
This is probably the largest genre of old wives’ tales regarding pregnancy. There are many theories out there. Some are fun, some are weird, and some make no sense at all.
Holistic pregnancy has many benefits for you and your baby. A holistic approach focuses on the whole person and considers not only the mother’s physical health, but her mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
Here we present the ultimate go-to guide to help you navigate through your holistic pregnancy, incorporating all the key elements needed for a safe, healthy, natural experience.
We all know that kids are at their best when they are on a schedule and doing their usual thing. However, getting them on a schedule and building a routine that works for them and for you can be difficult. Here are some tips to help you build a routine for your kids that works.
The week or two before school begins we always have plans to pack the most Pinterest-worthy snacks and lunches for our kids. But after a few “Pinterest fails” we get overwhelmed by the amount of time it can take to pack the perfect lunch.
Here’s the thing, “perfect” means something different than what you think. A lunch packed with care and love is exactly what your kids want, no matter how it looks. With some careful planning and a few ideas to get you started, packing healthy and delicious lunches for your kids will be easier than you think.
If you’re looking for a sentimental gift for dad this Father’s Day, we have some craft ideas for you to create with your little ones. Dad will get a meaningful keepsake and you’ll get some quality time with your kids in the process!
Sleep safety is a hot topic right now, and so we wanted to share some tips on how you can ensure your little one has a restful and safe night’s sleep. We’ve probably all heard that baby needs to be alone on his back in a crib to sleep, but sleep safety extends beyond that. We have eight tips for naptime and bedtime.
Remember, when in doubt you should reach out to your pediatrician. Your little one’s health and well-being are your number one priority, so take advantage of your pediatrician’s office. Attend all well check-ups and be sure to ask any questions no matter how trivial they may seem. Most pediatricians’ offices also have an after-hours nurse line that you can call at night or on weekends.
Additional safety information available at kidshealth.org.
When was the last time you played a board game? It’s probably been a while! What’s your favorite game? #Life and #Monopoly were definitely some of our favorites. (Although the amount of children you can have sometimes get way out of control and pretty much everyone knows that monopoly can be the longest game in history).
Maybe you already play board games together as a family, but if you don’t this is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to a fun way of learning! Board games mean quality time together as you teach your children valuable skills like following rules, taking turns, winning/losing graciously and in this case – spelling.
If your kids are younger, look for ways to make the game appropriate for their age level. Instead of playing with random letters, start out with one word and work together to use all of the tiles to spell additional words. Break out a dictionary – yes a real and actual book dictionary – and use it to look up and spell words together.
So, your little one is rolling over, scooting around and maybe even crawling. She’s very interested in the world around her and she’s depending on you to learn each and every day! Toys can be expensive and often don’t actually “teach” your little one anything.
Instead, skip the toys and check around your house for simple ways to create sensory activities for baby. Sensory activities are things that stimulate your little one’s senses of sight, touch, sound, smell and hearing.
Our number one favorite sensory activity is reading! Children’s books often have bright and colorful pictures that will keep baby’s attention. Plus, listening to your voice is one of the best ways that baby can learn. Be sure to use different voices for different characters and put emphasis on emotions.
Mess-free Finger Paint
Go to your local craft store and pick up some small bottles of brightly colors paint – any kind will do! Squirt a few different colors into a Ziploc bag and seal it. Baby can squeeze and squish the bag while mixing the colors and watching them change. Worried about baby finding away to open a bag? Just add some duct tape to seal it tight.
This one gets messy, but it’s SO FUN! Get a shower curtain liner and spread it out on the floor. Dump some Jell-O in the middle and let baby lay in it, roll in it, grab it, squeeze it and even eat it! Even thought baby will definitely need a bath after this activity, cleanup otherwise is a breeze because you can fold up the liner and throw it away or rinse it with the water hose and keep it for next time.
This can get messy, so keep it in a confined area if possible or on a tile or hardwood floor where the rice is easy to sweep up. This is also an activity you’ll want to supervise in case your little one likes to put everything in her mouth. You can use dry rice or cooked rice (if you’re brave!) in a bowl for her to squish and feel. Add other small items or toys in the rice for baby to find.
You can probably find a string of holiday lights in a storage bin somewhere in your house. It’s time to break them out and use them for more than the holidays! Put the string of lights into a mason jar and plug them in. This is another activity you’ll need ot supervise, but this is especially fun if your lights are multicolored or if they twinkle.
Think of a time before Pinterest. Find a corkboard or similar and secure items for baby to play with. Check out your local hardware store for knobs, handles and switches you can secure to the board. Then add some ribbons, shower curtain rings, small mirrors and even macaroni to the board for more fun.
Use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to make shakers with different ingredients – rice, beans, sand and beads are a few of our favorite. Or mix-and-match different items for even more unique sounds! Seal each end with tape and let baby shake away!
No matter how you play with your little one, you’re investing in their development. By introducing new sounds, shapes and interesting feelings, you’re teaching about the world around them.
ChangePal Product Review
As parents, we’re always on the hunt for the next greatest baby product. With all the “gear” on the market promising to make your life as a parent easier, it can be difficult to determine what really works like it promises.
One of our goals with the Pregnant Pauses blog is to help simplify your life – and that means seeking out the best baby gear on the market to share with you. We know (from experience!) that simplifying “life on the go” is one of the biggest struggles moms have.
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