Air Pollution – An Invisible Danger During Pregnancy
Air pollution, aside from cigarette smoke, may not be an obvious risk factor for birth defects particularly in developed countries.
However, according to the results of a large European study, exposure to air pollution throughout pregnancy significantly increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Low birth weight (under 2.5 kg) in full term infants has been associated with increased risk of mortality and morbidity in comparison to healthy birthweight infants. It also increases the likelihood of experiencing respiratory problems during childhood and later in life.
With high prevalence rates of respiratory conditions such as asthma worldwide, exposure to air pollution appears to one of the most important heath factors to address throughout pregnancy.
How Air Pollution Affects the Health of a Pregnancy
Researchers compiled data from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) to analyse 14 cohort studies conducted throughout Europe involving over 74,000 women who gave birth to a child between 1994 and 2011.
Researchers reported that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic metre exposure to fine particulate matter (particles of pollutant compounds) the risk of having a low birthweight baby increases by around 18% after accounting for other variables such as smoking, maternal age and body weight.
Higher exposure to air pollution and traffic density was also associated with reduced head circumference in infants which is significant due to the relationship between birth head circumference and neurodevelopment.
Air pollution consists of a range of harmful chemicals and compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals and volatile organic compounds from industrial air pollutants and traffic fumes.
These pollutants are hypothesised to restrict foetal growth through the disruption of hormone balance, altered placental growth and nutrient and oxygen exchange, and increased oxidative stress in pregnant women.
The most harmful types of air pollution were found to be the smaller sized particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less the 2.5 micrometers.
The results of this study were particularly concerning as significant effects on birth weight were recorded even in women exposed to less than the European Union annual safe limit of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.
Researchers concluded that maternal exposure to air pollution worldwide is a significant health threat, so further actions to improve global air quality particularly in urban areas are recommended.
Protecting Yourself From Air Pollution
It is impossible to completely avoid exposure to environmental toxins and air pollutants.
However, you can avoid cigarette smoking which is a major source of toxins and is a cause of many pregnancy complications.
Did you know even exposure to third hand smoke from the clothing of a smoker can affect the health of a foetus in a pregnant woman?
Limit your exposure to traffic pollution as much as you can by avoiding sitting outside at roadside cafes, walking or exercising near busy roads, etc.
Read up on how to reduce your exposure to air pollution and toxins around the home in Healthy Home, Healthy Family.
Build your immunity and improve your ability to detoxify pollutants with good nutrition. Nutrients such as Vitamin D and Selenium are essential for good health and are commonly deficient, particularly throughout pregnancy.
You can have your nutrient levels tested through Emed to determine exactly which nutrients you may need to increase in your diet or supplement with.
If you have a history of respiratory problems or are exposed to a lot of air pollution, we recommend trying ProVent, a probiotic formula specifically formulated to enhance respiratory function. This unique product also contains a synergistic combination of nutrients to further support immune health and antioxidant defences.
Contact your healthcare practitioner for individual dosage recommendations.
Pre-Conceptive Care for a Healthy Pregnancy
Test for mineral imbalances and heavy metal toxicity with a Hair Mineral Analysis.
This will give you the opportunity to detoxify safely and improve your fertility before trying to conceive.
Find out more on the effects of environmental toxins on fertility and pregnancy here.
Have a Genetic Profile done. FitGenes provide General and Advanced Health Genetic Profiles to assess how your genes may be influencing your ability to regulate inflammation, oxidative stress and detoxify harmful substances.
This will allow your practitioner to recommend gene-specific lifestyle, dietary and nutritional interventions to help support your wellbeing throughout pregnancy.
Follow our preconception and pregnancy nutrition guide to ensure you meet the increased nutritional requirements of pregnancy.
- Are Environmental Toxins Hampering Your Chances of Becoming Pregnant?
- What’s Your Toxic Body Burden – Take the Quiz
- Emed Detoxification Programs
Pedersen, M. et al. Ambient Air Pollution and Low Birthweight: A European Cohort Study (ESCAPE), The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Published online October 15, 2013