Health Is Beauty

5 Ways to Reduce Your Chemical Exposure Before You Even Think About Getting Pregnant

Image courtesy Flickr User Trocaire.


I have never been pregnant and I do not have any children. I do, however, plan on being pregnant one day (but not anytime soon!). So you might be curious why I think I’m entitled to share pre-pregnancy tips with you.

It’s pretty simple: the facts! Being a healthy mom means starting on a healthy track well before you’re ready to get pregnant.

Budding mommies-to-be avoid smoking and alcohol without hesitation, as both butts and booze have long been widely accepted as fetotoxic — poisonous to a growing baby. But what many women don’t realize is that there’s a long list of other toxic chemicals lurking in their homes and daily beauty routine at this very moment– which could harm her eventual baby, not to mention herself.

These harmful chemicals pervade our personal ecosystems, disguising themselves in everyday items we use and consume. While clever and visually appealing packaging may assert that they’re safe, “eco” or even natural, a pre-pregnant or pregnant gal would probably prefer to avoid them if she knew the full story.

Many of the toxins in products we use daily bioaccumulate in our bodies over a long period of time after we’re exposed to them, sometimes even decades. (This is scary stuff for a woman who foresees herself becoming pregnant 10-15 years down the line, let alone just a few years.)

Toxins typically find their home in our fat cells, and because women naturally have more body fat than men, we store more toxins, (especially in our breasts and belly where babies grow and then nurse from). Heavy metals and other toxins don’t just bioaccumulate in our own bodies, they also build up in the bodies of animals, (especially large fish, which is why pregnant and nursing women shouldn’t eat  fish like tilefish, swordfish, kingfish and tuna). These metals work their way into the atmosphere through emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources, and then get distributed into the oceans.

As an aspiring mother in today’s world, it’s incumbent on you to take your health and your future baby’s into your own hands. This never-been-pregnant gal is here to help with these five ways to reduce your chemical exposure whether you want a baby next month, next year, or sometime way down the line!

1.) Use non-toxic cleaning supplies. Household cleaners contain nasty chemicals culprits  such as phosphates, phenols, phthalates, triclosan, glycol ethers, ammonia, and petroleum solventsSadly, I could go on. Many of these have been linked to reproductive and neurological issues and birth defects, and traces have been found in breast milk and umbilical cord samples. Gross.

The bottom line: Look for purveyors of non-toxic and safe ecological cleaning products  such as Ecover, Mrs. Meyer’s or Method. You could even make your own with ingredients like baking soda and vinegar!

2.) Buy organic fruits and vegetables. Women should avoid pesticides and pollutants found in non-organic food, as pesticide exposure can cause both short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) health problems for animals and humans. Exposure to pesticides known as organophosphates, during pregnancy can permanently decrease children’s IQ, memory and ability to focus on tasks. Growth hormones found in dairy and meat products should be avoided as they can increase the risk of disrupted development and cancer in humans.

The bottom line: Shop organic and use the Environmental Working Group’s “shoppers guide” as a resource to avoid pesticides in produce.

3.) Junk your toxic beauty and personal care products. The average woman exposes herself to 167 different chemicals on her body and face during her daily beauty regimen.  Since we absorb 60% of what we put onto our skin, this means that you’re allowing chemicals to be absorbed into your body.

The bottom line: Shop for beauty and personal care products including lotions, shampoos/conditioners, deodorants, toothpastes, perfumes, nail polishes, you name it,  that are free of harmful chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates and DEA. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website to research the truth behind the ingredients in many of the products you use. Be sure to use the tool prior to making any purchases. It may not be as convenient as simply reading some label that’s lying to you and throwing it in the cart, but you and your future baby are worth the extra few minutes of time spent.

4.) Be wary of plastic. The plastic-filled world that we live in isn’t a good thing for pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant, since so many plastics contain BPA and phthalates that can remain in the body for long periods of time. Avoid single-use containers like plastic bottles and never microwave food in plastic containers, as the process will leach harmful chemicals.  You’ll also want to check your shower curtain to see if it’s made out of vinyl (hint: it smelled really strong when you pulled it out of the package) since they release volatile organic compounds that are linked to developmental and reproductive system damage. Canned food is a big no-no, too, since can linings usually contain BPA which is a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen and has been blamed for growing public-health problems such as early onset puberty in girls, small testicular size in boys and breast cancer in women.

The bottom line:  Get yourself a reusable water bottle free of BPA (glass is ideal), Phthalates and PVC,  hang a natural-fabric or safe plastic shower curtain, avoid eating nasty canned food and transfer microwavable food to a safe container.

5.) Get better sleep: Did you know that most mattresses are manufactured with chemicals that include flame retardants, petroleum-based foams, plastics, vinyls, fungicides and pesticides?  Flame-retardants have been linked to autism and ADD, among other things. They’re even found in crib mattresses where infants sleep about 15 hours a day. So while you think you’re getting the rest you need, you’re being exposed to toxic chemicals every night that could harm you and your baby one day.

The bottom line: Tell that old, toxic mattress of yours to peace out and opt for an eco-friendly alternative like Keetsa. If you’re working on the baby room, re-think the crib’s mattress. If springing for a new mattress just isn’t in the budget right now, purchase a thick organic mattress pad to reduce your chemical exposure.

Comment on this post and share other ways you’ve avoided chemical exposure during or before your pregnancy. We’d love to hear from you and your post could help our wonderful readers who are considering becoming mommies one day! If you have a tried-and-true non-toxic and totally awesome beauty or personal care product that you’ve used and loved during or before your pregnancy, send us an email with your tip to [email protected] We’ll include you and the tip in an upcoming post!



Lindsay has spent her career at the intersection of media and social change. In her role at Eco-Chick, Lindsay has established partnerships and campaigns with some of the world’s most-recognized companies committed to sustainability and CSR. She co-created the popular interview series “Heroines for the Planet” that features groundbreaking women who share courage and a deep passion for protecting people and the Earth. Lindsay is the Marketing and Sustainability Manager at Health-Ade Kombucha and previously served as Director of Communications at the social enterprise CBS EcoMedia. There she directed corporate advertising dollars to the nation’s most effective non-profits tackling urgent social issues in local communities and was awarded CBS Corporation’s prestigious Share-the-Vision award. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, Cottages & Gardens, From The Grapevine,,, and for environmentalists Laura Turner Seydel and Susan Rockefeller. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.