Toxins and Pregnancy

Staying healthy during pregnancy is important, and that includes removing or limiting the amount of known toxins your body is exposed to while pregnant. What are teratogens and how can they cause potential birth defects? Plus, we'll review some of the most common toxins found in our environment.

View Episode Transcript

Featured Expert

Featured Segments

  • The Best Pregnancy Apps

    We’re exploring the best apps to help you survive and thrive during pregnancy. Would you like to recommend an app for us to review? Leave a message through the voicemail on our website, or email us!

  • Baby Nursery on a Budget

    You have visions of a room covered in pink ballerinas or baseball bats. You want your nursery to be perfect, but you don’t want to take out a second mortgage to make it happen. Where can you cut your nursery room costs without cutting back on style?

Episode Transcript

Preggie Pals
Toxins and Pregnancy
Episode 79, November 11th, 2013


Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.

[Theme Music]

ROBERT FELIX: About 60 to 70 percent of birth defects are still unknown. With so much uncertainty, many parents are concerned about environmental factors that could impact their family including exposures to toxins. So, what toxins should you try to avoid during pregnancy? Are you really putting you baby at risk if you get your hair dyed? Eat at a sushi bar? Or paint your baby’s nursery? I’m Robert Felix, Teratogen Information Specialist for MotherToBaby California and this is Preggie Pals, episode 79.

[Theme Music/Intro]

SUNNY GAULT: Welcome to Preggie Pals broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Preggie Pals is your weekly online, on-the-go support group for expecting parents and those hoping to become pregnant. I’m your host Sunny Gault, would you like bonus content after each new show, great giveaways and some discounts? Then join our Preggie Pals Club. You can visit our website for more information and another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Preggie Pals apps, they are available in the Android and iTunes market place. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter. If you do not live in San Diego right here where we broadcast from and you would like to be a panelist on our show, you can still participate thru our virtual panelist program. And our Preggie Pals producer Stephanie is here to tell us a little bit more about that.

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: Hi everyone! Okay, so, we want you to be involved no matter where in the world you are. So, first, you have to like us on facebook or follow us on twitter. And if you’re on twitter be sure to use the hash tag #preggiepalsvp. So we’re posting sneak preview questions couple of days before we record and we’d love to have your input

SUNNY GAULT: Okay, and there is more information on the website about that in the virtual panelist section. I think it’s in the community section, right?

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: Community tab and then, yeah, virtual panelist

SUNNY GAULT: Awesome. So, let’s introduce some of the panelist that are here in the studio. You guys know me, I am the current host of Preggie Pals but I’m going to be handing the torch over to Annie Laird who’s also joining us here in the studio, but I’ll tell you a little bit about myself first. So, I am 35 years old and I’ve got 2 little boys at home. Sayer who is 3 years old, Urban who is about 18 months now and I am pregnant with identical twin girls. We are having a C-section scheduled for December 2nd due to some complications from the birth of my first son. But, we’re really excited and trying to make it to that December date, I’ll be 38 weeks and so I have all the faith in the world though that my body can do it, so, holding up for that. And so, I mentioned I’m going to be passing the torch here to Annie. Annie’s going to be your new host of Preggie Pals, she’s picking up the reins. She’s been hosting some shows here and there but she’s going to be officially starting in January. So Annie, tell us a little bit more about yourself.

ANNIE LAIRD: Hi! I’m Annie Laird. I’m 35 as well.

SUNNY GAULT: It’s a good age isn’t it? Advanced maternal age

ANNIE LAIRD: Exactly. I don’t feel, I feel like I’m a 25 year old in a 35 year old body so, but anyways, I’m going to be taking over the Preggie Pals hosting duties. During my day job, I am a government contractor and when I am not just creating children, I am a labor doula as well but that’s a little bit hard right now that’s pretty physically intense

SUNNY GAULT: Really, it is a job in itself creating children, do you know what I’m saying?

ANNIE LAIRD: It is. That’s my third job but it should be number one.

SUNNY GAULT: You should get paid for it by the way

ANNIE LAIRD: I should. I did a flawless laugh for my husband he does appreciate that so, he doesn’t have to do it. But I am pregnant with my third baby due date or gestates the twenty fourth of October although the full moon is the week prior so I’m kind of feeling the 18th so well see if that comes and goes but we’ll see how that goes. Don’t know the baby’s gender we’re on team green. My husband is hoping for a boy but I don’t think he’s that lucky and he’s happy as long as we have a healthy baby so that would be girl number three. My midwife who has been in practice for 37 years said she dream the other night that I had a girl. So she said she was dreaming and she asked my husband Robert she goes “well now that you had in all the baby is a girl” you know you have three girls you know try again for a boy and then she said she woke up because she never dreams about clients. So I’m thinking I’m going to go with the 37 you know, you’re practicing midwife. And we are planning a home birth for our third.

SUNNY GAULT: Okay awesome, Melissa go ahead.

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: Hi! I’m Melissa Lang Lytle. I’m 42 years old. I am a birth doula and a birth choices activist so to speak. I’m actually pregnant with my third baby as well. I have two children, Benjamin who will be 5 in December, and Joseph who is three and I had one planned homebirth and we transferred to the hospital but I had a second. My second birth was at home and in the water and wonderful and I’m planning a third homebirth.

SUNNY GAULT: Awesome, okay and you guys already met Stephanie, but Stephanie tell us a little bit about yourself.

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: Hi! I’m Stephanie. I’m 30. I have a 9 month old little girl at home named Savannah and we had an unplanned c section in the hospital, obviously

ANNIE LAIRD: And not at home. That would be really interesting

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: It would be scary if you said planned c section at home

SUNNY GAULT: Okay and Robert is our special expert for the day. Robert any children?

ROBERT FELIX: I have a 17 year old daughter


ROBERT FELIX: And a handful

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: At that age I think they are huh

SUNNY GAULT: Okay we’ll learn a little bit more about Robert a little later in the show. Thank you guys for joining us today

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Alright before we get started with today’s show, we are going to review a pregnancy app. I was all excited when I found this online because I love free apps and this is a free app and believe it or not the March of Dimes created this. Big fan of the March of Dimes, they’ve been on our show before and it is called CineMama. Okay it’s one word, CineMama. Again it’s free an iPhone app, not sure if it’s an android app, I’ll look in to that I’ll of course put links on our website. But the idea is, you’ve seen online how women take daily pictures of themselves when they’re pregnant, you know you could take it weekly, you know, every week you could do it every trimester, you could do it, some women do it every day.

And this is a great app for being able to take pictures with your iPhone. It stores the pictures in it and then whenever you want to, you can export the images in to basically a movie file. It creates this movie for you. And I believe that they have royalty free music if you want to add it to it and then it’s also tied in to facebook. So if you want to just upload it directly to facebook you can do that as well. And I just thought it was a really nice idea, I keep thinking that I’m going to do this especially being pregnant with twins now. I wanted to be able to compare the pregnancies and how big I was

ANNIE LAIRD: But you’re thirty weeks long

SUNNY GAULT: And I’m thirty weeks long.

ANNIE LAIRD: Doesn’t it happen with third pregnancies it’s like you know the first one that gets.


ANNIE LAIRD: You get everything in the third one you know, I’ll probably have a picture of a newborn and then a picture when they’re 5.

SUNNY GAULT: It’s so true. It’s so true but I mean it really is nice because even if you’re not good at taking pictures. First of all it gives you like a calendar, so you just click on the day and then it even has kind of an outline of like a face and where your belly goes. My only criticism of the app is that, you know how on iPhones you know, you’ve got that reverse camera where you could kind of hold it away from you and take your own picture, it doesn’t look like that’s enabled on this app. So you either have to set it up somehow and take your photo. I don’t even know if iPhones have a timer kind of thing on it. Can you do a timer? So that would be my only critique is I’ve everyday like I ask my husband take a photo of me like are you being crazy. I have other things that I have to do. But other than that, is it something that you would recommend to another pregnant mom? What do you think Annie?

ANNIE LAIRD: I think so, definitely. I think I would like to have more pictures. Like I said, this is my third baby and I have taken zero belly pictures. I do think that would be a good critique of the app. My husband has been deployed for the majority of my pregnancy. So, if I would take these pictures, they would be taking them, I would be taking them myself. And as I said it’s an app and it a free app but yeah there will be an extra a little additional thing that just so it would be easier for me to do it myself instead of relying on somebody else to take the pictures

SUNNY GAULT: Thumbs up? Thumbs down?


SUNNY GAULT: Thumbs up!


SUNNY GAULT: Melissa, what do you think?

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: I want to say, that sounds fabulous but again I was kind of falling in to the, the victim of having my third baby as well and wondering if I’m thinking right now, do I even have any pictures of myself pregnant? But I love the idea that you said of how you can kind of line up your belly. My dad’s a photographer and time lapse is something I’m absolutely obsessed with. And then frankly you can line up everything which means that the person’s going to be stationary and perhaps the backgrounds going to change and then moves into a movie. I think that sounds fabulous.

SUNNY GAULT: That’s a really good point.

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: I may even start it after today, even though I’m already 24 weeks. I think it sounds great so I say, two thumbs up!

SUNNY GAULT: Two thumbs up. I might even get my son to take my picture and he can line it up. What do you think Stephanie?

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: I think it’s a super cool idea. I think I would probably use it in my next pregnancy. I know I took, I took a ton of photos, but yeah they, I like the whole line up feature too because they were all different to all kind of you know different links away from the mirror. And then of course I did use you know I don’t have to take them myself in the mirror. That would be, they definitely need to work on that other flipside camera situation.

SUNNY GAULT: Okay it sounds like we’re giving this app two thumbs up and don’t forget we do have a Preggie Pals app. It is free, so be sure to download it on iTunes or to the android marketplace.

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: We all want what’s best for our babies and we try to stay as healthy as possible while pregnant. But where do you draw the line when it comes to toxins and pregnancy. Today we’re joined by Robert Felix, he is a Teratogen Information Specialist for MotherToBaby California who provides education and research to help expecting mothers prevent birth defects. So, Robert, welcome to Preggie Pals


SUNNY GAULT: Nice to have you here today. So, what is a teratogen?

ROBERT FELIX: So, basically a teratogen, I think simply defined as anything and everything that the mom is exposed to during the pregnancy that can affect the development of the unborn baby. And what it does is it doesn’t only cause major malformations but rather causes a pattern of major and minor malformations. So, anything really could be a Teratogen if you at a given dose. So, classic examples are lead, cigarettes, alcohol and a lot of other things that could potentially harm the development of the fetus

SUNNY GAULT: Okay. Now how often do Teratogens result in birth defects? I know it’s a load of question because it really depends on probably the exposure that you have. But I know when people hear this, they’re going to freak out initially and I know sometimes, you know we think “Oh I was you know exposed to this” but it was such a small amount that it may not really result anything. So, is there any guidance that you can give us on that?

ROBERT FELIX: Yes, so that’s, you’re right, it is a loaded question. I think the way to simply put a hand along in is that majority as I mention in introduction, majority of birth defects, we really have no idea. It’s not that we know it’s a Teratogen cause or caused by a Teratogen. And then about 20 percent are single gene defect. 10 percent I think is chromosomal and Teratogens only cause 10 percent of birth defects so it’s really Teratogens really only cause a very small proportion of birth defects in the whole scheme of things.


ROBERT FELIX: And then, when you, then when you look at the actual Teratogen, the question is which is defined by the principles of Teratology is who, you know, genetic susceptibility. If there’s an exposure, is that person more likely to be affected versus another person. Kind of like alcohol, you know, because it’s an easy example, you might have a friend who could have one drink and be, you know buzz under the table. And the next person drinking a six pack and still going, you know. So, genetic susceptibility, timing of exposure is another factor’ that is critical. Because depending on the Teratogen, an exposure early in pregnancy maybe more of a concern rather than late.

There’s some Teratogens that are concerned throughout pregnancy and there’s some that are concerned late and not in early. So, and I think that’s you know something to consider so, what I always tell pregnant women is before you become concerned and panic, let’s assess the question first. So, for example when people call us and say “I heard something causes birth defect” might need it if I know I can ask it, I will say “in what?” and they’ll go, “what do you mean?” and I’ll say “well you heard it cause birth defect, is it in a rabbit? Or human? A dog?” You know? Because a lot of times the data is based on animal data, and so it’s unfortunate but that’s what you see out there and it alarms and scares everybody. And there’s no reason to add anymore stress to pregnant women.

SUNNY GAULT: Right. I feel like that happens a lot.


SUNNY GAULT: I feel like there’s always stuff in the headlines about what you shouldn’t do and it’s like, if I really, you know, listen to all of this, I would just put myself in a plastic bubble.

ROBERT FELIX: That’s exactly what I say. I say and then you think about it, even if you live in a plastic bubble, there’s still a chance you could have a baby with birth defects.

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: It’s plastic. How hot is it outside?

ROBERT FELIX: Maybe we get a BPA free bubble. But, so yeah you’re, you know that’s the thing and I and you know I would say when you hear something, step back, breathe and start calling or I guess now they googling. And then figure out, but even then, you really need to be careful with what you read on the internet. Because there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there

SUNNY GAULT: What are some of the ways Teratogens can enter the body and cause harm?

ROBERT FELIX: Okay so there are various ways that you can be exposed. You can be exposed to it by ingesting it, like medications or smoking it, inhaling it. Intramuscular, so, and but the issue is, or the concern is how are you exposed. And then of that, how much of that is actually crossing the placenta? Or how much of it is even getting systemically absorbed and then getting in to your system to get to the placenta to cross to the baby. So that, those are things that we assess in terms of exposure. So somebody calls and says “I was exposed to something” and I’ll go “well what do you mean?” So you need to explain that to me.

Because sometimes or in an example, good example that probably people can relate to is cigarette smoking, right? So, when you’re smoking directly, you’re getting the carbon monoxide and all that junk in the cigarette smoke and but passive smoking is also an issue, because that’s also been associated with low birth weight. And passive smoking continuous passive smoking I think is more the issue. So, in other words like if you live with somebody who’s smoking in front of you all the time and during your pregnancy, that could potentially lead to low birth weight baby or smaller baby. But the questions we get now since California is pretty much smoke-free where women will say “well, at work I walk by a group of people in the smoking area”.

So, technically that’s an exposure. But I probably wouldn’t be too concerned about it. I would still talk to her about the issues and what the concerns would be so she can be educated about it. But I probably would lay her fear and reassure her that it’s probably not likely to be a concern. So, there again it depends on the substance because there are some things that you can inhale that may just get absorbed in your sinuses and not necessarily get absorbed into your system. Like formaldehyde for example you know. And I think that common question we get about formaldehyde now is related to hair products. Like the Brazlian Blowout, because there’s debate as to whether or not it truly contains formaldehyde or not

SUNNY GAULT: I love that you know what a Brazilian Blowout is

ROBERT FELIX: We have a lot of questions in Brazilain Blowout. I used to call it something else before. Then I was corrected. So, you know there’s some because proprietary we don’t really know in terms of that Brazilian Blowout that that woman is calling about whether it has formaldehyde or not. But when you look at the data of formaldehyde, there really are no studies to show that it causes an increase in birth defects. But why it’s a concern is one it’s a chemical. It can be harmful to your health and it’s a potential nasal carcinogen. So there could be issues for my health standpoint but whether or not it causes birth defects we cannot answer that. But we do know women are exposed to formaldehyde all the time.

Hair products we get it in our furniture and fabric. And women who work in labs or working with cadavers like nurses in anatomy. So there’s a lot of ways you could be exposed to one but at what level does it become a concern. So we really assess all that but one of our things is to make sure when they talk about the exposure it’s you know it’s clear whether she’s taking it or injecting it or even suppository you know cause that, you know when they’re using suppositories where they use suppositories the membranes are permeable. So there could be an absorption. So here’s a classic example, I know we’re going off track but we hear wild stories of these calls.

So a woman calls and she was actually referred by the smokers helpline this so she has a smoking problem and her whole family smokes in front of her. But she was willing to quit smoking, so she called the smokers helpline to get help. But one of the questions she asks the smokers helpline council which they got referred to us is about alcohol in pregnancy. And you think, classic we can do that easily. But how is she exposed? The family knows she smokes, but the family doesn’t know she drinks and she’s a young woman. But do you know how she is drinking? So she’s taking a tampon soaking it in her alcohol and then inserting it vaginally. So, that’s and that’s an extreme, yes I know it sounds amazing right?

SUNNY GAULT: I never even heard of that. Does that work?

ROBERT FELIX: Well you know what? It turns out

SUNNY GAULT: Alcohol get creative

ROBERT FELIX: Yeah, it turns out its very common in college now and its people use it because they get the buzz and but they don’t get the alcohol breathe and you get the direct effect. So, I know it’s and I’m not, I’m not encouraging that at all. But it is you know it’s one of those and then so you, you look and you say, well what kind of data is there you know. What kind of alcohol is she using? I mean because it makes a difference. Is she soaking it in beer versus is she soaking it in vodka? And what kind of blood levels do you get? Because you do get absorption, because you get the, I mean it’s, do you get the buzz? So, you know we have to address that then there’s nothing I could find in the literature in terms of a blood level that might develop from that kind of an exposure

SUNNY GAULT: And think of the burning sense, alcohol and wow

ROBERT FELIX: Yeah. Right! Because it’s caustic yeah

ANNIE LAIRD: It’s like the opposite of putting like yogurt in your yannie and why would you do that? I suppose somebody does, you know about it

ROBERT FELIX: And that’s just an extreme. I know that I’m bouncing around but

MELISSA LANG LYTLE: No but if it’s a question that you’re getting. This is why you have an anonymous hotline


SUNNY GAULT: When we come back we’re going to talk about specific toxins women are typically warned about during pregnancy, do they really post a threat to you and your baby? We’ll be right back.

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Welcome back, today we’re discussing toxin exposure during pregnant and pregnancy, gosh, Welcome back today we’re discussing toxin exposure during pregnancy. Robert Felix, a Teratogen Information Specialist is our special expert. Okay, Robert so let’s review some of these toxins that we hear about all the time in pregnancy and as we kind of go through this list, let’s talk about ways we could be exposed to this. And this is more like on a day to day basis like there are rare circumstances right? But for the average mom to be out there, how are we typically exposed? And then what kind of impact does this have on us or unborn child? So let’s start with lead.

ROBERT FELIX: Okay. So, lead used to be the issue because of paint but that’s really not an issue anymore or leaded gasoline. Now currently how moms might be exposed to lead is if they live near an industrial plant that’s using lead. Where there may be producing car batteries or using a pottery that has lead glaze or glaze that has lead in it. That’s another way. And then I think more commonly, I don’t know what the statistics are anymore is through folklore medicine.

So women may buy medicine that they bought from their country or crossed border that they don’t know what the content is and some of those maybe made in lead. Years ago there was a product, that was a skin care product was worked well. I think it contain not only lead but mercury. And that’s a problem with some proprietary products, is we don’t really know what’s in them. But that’s how women might be currently exposed. They use it in ink for printing back in the mid 90’s or maybe late 90’s there was a concern in orange county with these lunch bags that we’re given out for free that had whatever logo on it and apparently they had used some lead based paint on them.

So, that would be an exposure, but how much of an exposure? Probably not unless she was using that lunch bag as her plate or licking the actual logo, you know. Well I had a teacher that called about that, I had to walk her through because she was concerned about the apple that was not wrapped, that was in the bag. And I said, well did you take the apple and rub it on the, because that’s the issue is the outside of the bag has a lead content if at all not inside the bag because of the painting. So we do, you know we have to walk people through the questions

SUNNY GAULT: Sure, sure. Fish and mercury so this is our sushi question, I think.

ROBERT FELIX: And you questions good about sushi because when we get the, can I eat sushi? The question is “what’s your concern?” is it because of the parasitic infection because it’s raw? Is it because of too much acid? Well and the mercury in the fish. Too much acid because of the vinegar and the rice. Is it because of the iodine in the sushi wrapper? You know so there are a lot of things to address

SUNNY GAULT: Yes. All of the above

ROBERT FELIX: All of the above right? So, right? But you know with fish, with mercury, and there’s I haven’t read this study I just saw it yesterday. There’s actually now a study that was published recently in Dunning, UK, that’s saying that amount of mercury that we get from eating fish really is not contributing to the amount of mercury in our system. So I other words what it’s saying is that mercury we have in our body, we’re getting it thru something else. But until we know clearly how safe it is FDA, EPA has put out a guidance saying that you should minimize eating fish ones that you should be avoiding are shark, tile-fish, kingfish you know open water fish. Big fish because they are up high on the chain and it’s a biochelation that happens.

ANNIE LAIRD: I’m just wondering part of it though you have to balance I mean it talks about how good omega 3’s are and then it almost feels like well that seems like that’s bad guidance you know if you tell women not to eat fish. Fish is you know low fat, great in the good fats that are good for the development of the baby.

ROBERT FELIX: Absolutely, so, we tell women that or in the case where somebody might say well I’m not eating fish so I’m taking omega 3, that the best possible way or the best way probably is just to eat the fish and minimize her content. And I think it’s about up to 12 ounces per week. And then the other thing we heard or read is that trying to eat a variety of fish. So instead of eating salmon 3 times a week maybe eat a salmon or a bass so that you’re getting a variety.


ROBERT FELIX: And tilapia, yeah, so that if per chance that fish that you bought did had mercury, wouldn’t be concentrating it by eating it three times in a week.

SUNNY GAULT: Makes sense. Okay arsenic, which I wouldn’t think that would be good at any point but it is on our list. How can we consume arsenic?

ROBERT FELIX: Well, you know the recent concern with arsenic scare in our, in the news was arsenic in the rice. Did you guys hear about that? It was last September. And before that earlier that earlier in the year last year the concern was and I’m sure you’ve heard it this on TV is arsenic in apple juice.

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: Absolutely, heard it.

ROBERT FELIX: And so the, I think with the arsenic the concern is it’s a carcinogen and it can cause bladder cancer. And there studies that have been done all over the world looking at arsenic. And one of the common ways we’re exposed with is though water. More so well water and not probably not our water. There’s no good studies that have been done in pregnancy.

Now animal studies have shown adverse effects so that scares people because you know it can cause problems in animal pregnancy. There’s a study that was done and I can’t remember what country where they looked at moms who had arsenic poisoning in pregnancy. And although they had health effects, there’s no indication of an increase for birth defects. Doesn’t mean that it’s safe, but it’s reassuring to a certain extent that you know we’re not finding an increase in birth defects but you still want to minimize it especially if it is a potential carcinogen

SUNNY GAULT: The next one on our list, pesticides, fertilizer and actually we had a question from one of our facebook friends.

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: Yeah our facebook friend Heather asked about having her house tinted or even just spraying for like ants and bugs and anything like that. And I know that also when I was pregnant our house was just, one morning I woke up and the ants had moved in. And it was just me, my husband was out of town and I didn’t know what to do. You know because I didn’t want to. What I wanted to do was light a match and walk away, but decided that that was probably not the best plan. So, what’s best to get

ROBERT FELIX: That cause you get all the carbon monoxide

STEPHANIE SAALFELD: So what do you do? What’s the safest thing?

ROBERT FELIX: Yeah so with pesticide it’s a complex issue because there’s so many different pesticides out there. So what we have to assess first is what is exactly was she being exposed to. Because with like, say for example tinting, some of those pesticides that are they use I think as a chemical that basically suffocates the pest and it’s not necessarily a chemical it dissipates. But the common pesticides that we’re all exposed to are, organophosphate or pyrethroids. And pyrethroids I think are the most common. And pyrethroids were pyrethrins, they’re derived from chrysanthemums so people feel more comfortable because it’s natural but you know just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe right?

But the thing is with pyrethroids they’re commonly used in organophosphate they don’t linger in the environment they dissipate shortly and you know an example of pyrethroid as a pesticide the people use on their skin are head lice medication. So you know knowing that that happens and people even put it on kids, you know it’s probably not likely that inhaling something minimal is going to result in any adverse. I think the issue is when you smell it, you get sick from it, you panic, you started thinking what I am doing; also you know like outside pesticides or pesticides that used outdoors they put additives in them.

For some of them so that they create density so that they sink to the ground. So that they don’t float away so to speak. And I don’t know which ones they are but what happens then is when this chemical touches or interacts with the soil, it causes a reaction and puts out a scent which then people think “oh am I being exposed to this actual pesticide?” and really it’s the additive in them.

SUNNY GAULT: Flee medications, you know for your pets. How safe is it for a pregnant woman to apply these medications to her pet and to have that maybe it touched her skin or whatever.

ROBERT FELIX: We haven’t found, because that was one of the questions that we were getting a lot is or getting is if they apply it and you know like those drops that you put on them.

ANNIE LAIRD: From the back of the neck of the cat.

ROBERT FELIX: Right. And if you’re petting them, if the idea as it’s supposed to kind of travel and absorb, are you getting that on your hand? I haven’t found any data on like how much are you getting on your hand? We do know that pregnant women who have had exposures and nothing negative has been published but we don’t really know the safety of it. But, since it’s more common now, in terms of just a flee call or well now they even are doing the, the pill that your exposure is probably very minimum. If you are concern what you might do is after you apply, give it a few days so that it takes it’s effect and dissipates. And also knowing that if you can apply it directly on animal that and it’s not necessarily causing them a health effect then perhaps your exposure is even less significant.

SUNNY GAULT: So the last one that we’re going to talk about on our list is solvents

ROBERT FELIX: The most common question we do get throughout the state not just from pregnant women but health providers as well is, hair treatment. So it could be perming your hair, it could be straightening your hair, frosting, weaving

ANNIE LAIRD: Well as a pregnant woman, that’s something you know I ask my child birth educator, I said, “well I’d like to know about toxins, it was a part of my childbirth education” she said, oh well you’re beautiful as it is, you don’t need to dye your hair. Well that’s not the question, I want to dye my hair you know. This is not helpful. You know,

ROBERT FELIX: Exactly. Years ago we used to get very few calls on women who get their hair dyed early in pregnancy. Most of it were women who are AMA advanced maternal age because it wasn’t so common then and their comment was I think was hilarious as “listen, I’m 40 weeks along or 38 weeks along, I do not want to pop out this baby with gray hair” So, can I color my hair? But the data on hair colorants, there are no systematic studies have been done so technically, scientifically could not say it’s safe because we don’t know that. However, it’s an exposure that women have all the time.

They have it incidental and some women just continue to do it anyway even if we say there’s no guaranteed safety. But the incidental exposure as far as we know has not been associated with an increase risk from birth defect and when you look at somebody who might have an exposure that’s more consistent (i.e) a hairdresser somebody who’s in cosmetology where they’re exposed not just to the hair products but a ton of chemicals. The only study we’ve seen or study we’ve seen associated with that looked at whether or not it because an increase in miscarriage. And there’s some data’s some small study that suggest that there might be.

But the problem with the study it’s a questionnaire study, it’s not a systematic one where they measured her level and what is she exposed to, I mean for all we know, the miscarriage could have been due the ergonomics of the job. She’s standing on her feet all day long. What’s her health stand on that, I mean was she eating healthy? Does she even know she was pregnant? Or was there substance abuse involved, you know, so there are a lot of issues that we can’t really say that’s a problem however again women dye their hair, perm it, color it, they’ve been doing it for years. I think what’s nice now, I assume that is that the probably the chemicals that were all using for hair dyes, I’m just as guilty is that there probably not as toxic as they used to be or not as strong as they used to be. Because now it’s even kids are using it and every day.

It’s probably not likely to be an issue. There hasn’t been any concern. If somebody says, well should I do it or not, that’s then I have to say “well it’s a decision you have to make” Because if you’re for example knew if you’re going to use it and you’re going to worry about it then probably don’t use it because if you’re just going to worry about it that might be more of a problem than the actual exposure

SUNNY GAULT: What are some of the other things that are considered

ROBERT FELIX: Well so there is you know solvent is just such a generic term. Some of these include turpentine, toluene maybe even gasoline. There are a lot of solvents out there that we’re exposed to. And when you talk about solvents and you take it out of context, yes they can be concerning. Because there are some data that suggest solvents can increase risk for complications including mental retardation, specific birth defects but when these have been reported they relate more to moms who’ve had like significant exposure. Women who are working with solvents, or a variety of solvents in an industrial plant.

I think in Canada there was a study where moms were exposed to a significant, I can’t remember what the levels are and it was mostly were. Back in the late 90’s there was a report of what they referred to back then as a fetal solvent syndrome and it was a baby who had features and unusual features and in fact the feature were very similar to the fetal alcohol syndrome. And but that resulted from a mom who was ingesting gasoline in pregnancy. So, or a gasoline exposure in pregnancy so that’s extreme.

And so if you take it out of context so for example acetone, which nail polish remover, most women probably use that in pregnancy because they get their nails done? And I think if there’s anything an issue with the acetone it’s probably more than it’s going to damage your skin because it dries your skin right? But to say that that’s a problem, it’s a little bit I think too scary. If she were to drink that acetone then I would say yes that’s more of an issue than incidental exposure.

But really of all the solvents if you will I think the most common household chemical solvent that we’re exposed to that we don’t give a second thought to and you mentioned that earlier is alcohol. Because a lot of times people are drinking alcohol they don’t know that they’re pregnant and we know there’s a concern for that especially if you’re drinking on a regular basis. So I think of all the household chemicals besides cigarette smoking probably ethanol or ethyl alcohol or simply a vodka drink or beer that would probably be the most concerning of all household exposure

SUNNY GAULT: Well Robert thank you so much for joining us today, it’s been absolute pleasure. For more information about Robert as well as our panelist you can visit the episode page on our website. This conversation continues for members of our Preggie Pals club after the show we’ll discuss some of the symptoms or warning signs you may experience if you’ve been negatively exposed to toxins. For more information about our club visit

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Before we wrap today’s show here are some tips for keeping your baby nursery on a budget from Cynthia Kaiden

CYNTHIA KAIDEN: Hello Preggie Pals! I am Cynthia Kaiden, founder of trick my crib nursery and kids room designs where I help your nursery dreams come true. I’m excited to talk to you today about money saving tips for the baby’s room specifically about saving on the crib. One of the first steps in designing your baby’s room is to know your overall budget and develop a good idea of how much you have to spend on a crib. Second explore whether you might have the opportunity to receive a hand me down or borrow a crib from someone who isn’t using theirs. Moms love to help other moms to be. As a side benefit they get that unused crib out of their home.

If you are going to purchase a new crib, shop around. Go to the big baby stores to look, feel and experience the crib hands on but then go home and shop online. You will be amazed that you can find online virtually the same crib you fell in love with in the baby store for hundreds less. Convertible cribs are huge money savers. If you don’t buy a convertible, you should plan on buying a toddler bed in about two years and then a big bed in another two years. I think that’s a huge waste of resources and it really is not necessary.

The convertible cribs convert first to a toddler bed and then to a full size bed, often with a head board and fit board that already fits and matches the room. They’re great. Be aware that you can also buy a crib mattress that converts from infant to toddler just by flipping it over. What a great money saver. I can help you find a perfect crib as part of my flat fee design service. Please like trick my crib on facebook and visit my page often for decorating ideas. Thanks for listening to today’s money saving tips and be sure to listen to Preggie Pals for more great pregnancy tips in the future.

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: That wraps up our show for today, we appreciate you listening to Preggie Pals, don’t forget to check out our sister shows Parent Savers, for parents with newborns, infants and toddlers. And our show The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies. Next week, we’re continuing our series focused on Natural Ways to Manage Pregnancy Discomforts and we are going to talk about Acupuncture. This is Preggie Pals, your pregnancy, your way

This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.


[End of Audio]

Love our shows? Join our community and continue the conversation! Mighty Moms is our online support group, with parenting resources and helpful new mom stories you won’t find anywhere else! You’ll also have a chance to be featured on our shows.

Become a Mighty Mom!