There is no more precious time in your life than welcoming new life into this world. The health of our babies is something every expecting mother starts to think about, and the impact of what we put in our bodies, and in our bodies, has never had such an influence on us.
This is something I know all too well, as a recent mother of a baby girl. I had an incredibly hard time getting pregnant, faced with infertility and having to do multiple rounds of IVF, I researched and evaluated everything in my lifestyle that may have an affect on my health, and the health of my reproductive system. While our beauty and personal care products may seem benign, these often chemical-laden products do get into our systems and can affect the health of our bodies, babies and families.
One scary moment that highlighted the impact of my personal care choices was a poster I saw in the fertility clinic that confirmed the effect that fragrance can have on embryos, eggs and sperm. So if fragrance can affect our most precious life force, what effect might it have on the rest of us?
The effect of personal care products on human health has been studied more recently, and I was shocked to discover that there are many common household ingredients that are known carcinogens or endocrine disrupters that can affect reproductive health.
After years of research, here is a list of common ingredients found in everyday products that are best avoided during pregnancy. We recommend that you keep an eye out for these ingredients and discuss the risks with your doctor.
Fragrances and Phthalates
Fragrances are ubiquitous in personal care products, and due to the unknown composition of what ingredients make up fragrances (many could be hundreds of ingredients grouped into that single bucket), it is best to avoid products with them all together. Many conventional fragrances contain phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. These compounds have been linked to developmental issues and can potentially impact the reproductive system. Opt for fragrance-free or essential oil scented alternatives to minimize exposure to these harmful substances.
Widely used as preservatives, parabens help extend the shelf life of various cosmetics and personal care items. However, research suggests that parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, potentially interfering with hormonal balance, and could possibly increase rates of breast cancer. Choose products labeled "paraben-free" to reduce the risk of exposure during pregnancy.
Formaldehyde is used as preservatives in various beauty products and as a cleaning disinfectant. Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde has been associated with respiratory issues, skin irritation and fertility problems, even miscarriage. Look for formaldehyde-free cleaning products and items like nail polishes and hair straightening treatments.
Exposure to ammonia vapors can irritate the respiratory system, leading to symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath, which may be particularly concerning during pregnancy when respiratory changes are already occurring. Furthermore, ammonia can cause irritation and damage to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. There has been a recent study linking ammonia to cognitive impairment when rats were exposed to ammonia prior to gestation.
The main active ingredient in bleach, sodium hypochlorite, releases chlorine gas when used. Very minimal use of chlorine bleach is considered safe, however the inhalation of chlorine gas can cause respiratory irritation, aggravating conditions such as asthma and potentially affecting the developing fetus. Moreover, direct skin contact with bleach can lead to irritation and chemical burns, posing an additional risk to pregnant women whose skin may be more sensitive during this period. The fumes emitted by chlorine bleach may also contribute to indoor air pollution, which, if prolonged, can impact respiratory health.
Pregnancy and early childhood years are a precious time to pay attention to what goes into and onto your body. By avoiding certain ingredients in your cleaning and personal care routine, you can create a safer environment for both you and your baby. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your routine, and when in doubt, trust your body’s reaction - if it doesn’t feel good, best not to use it.
Co-Founder + New Mom,