Air Pollution and Pregnancy
It’s been a standard of public health for decades that pregnant women should not smoke, but there are also other air pollutants it’s best not breathe. One of the most common sources of outdoor air pollution comes from vehicle exhaust and there are numerous studies showing how this type of exposure can negatively impact fetal health. For example, women who live in areas with high traffic pollution are more likely to give birth to preterm babies and have low birth weight babies. Their babies are also at higher risk of mortality from respiratory death, congenital heart defects, and having a lower IQ.
How can you protect your baby from outdoor air pollution? Follow these easy steps to help you and your baby breathe easier when you’re bound for the great outdoors:
1. Follow outdoor air quality advisory warnings. Check out AirNow.gov to learn about your local air quality index. You can even sign up to get email or cell phone notices when the air is especially unhealthy. Limit your exposure to pollution by limiting outdoor activities; especially exercise, on days when air quality is poor.
2. Avoid peak hours of pollution. If you can, reduce your exposure to pollutants by staying indoors during peak traffic times and in the late afternoon, when the heat of the day can decrease air quality.
3. Reroute walks. Walking is one of the most perfect forms of exercise for pregnant women, so get some strides in daily if you can. Try to find a nice wooded space like a park or even a peaceful cemetery since trees help purify the air. If that’s not available, at least find routes away from highly trafficked roads. Pollutant density decreases every foot you’re away from the traffic corridor, says Barbara MacKinnon of the New Brunswick Lung Association. This tip also applies to driving – find less traveled routes to reduce your exposure and don’t tail large trucks or buses.
4. If you live near a busy road, keep your windows and doors closed during peak hours and look into buying an air purifier.
5. Drink plenty of fluids to keep your respiratory tract moist. This helps keep it in tip-top shape to battle environmental assaults.
While the most common outdoor air pollutant exposure is from vehicle exhaust, many people also live by industrial facilities, which can cause their own air quality issues. Enter your zip code at Score Card to find out if there are any other pollutants you should be aware of. Concerned by what you might be exposed to? Talk with your doctor.
And remember, do your part to reduce air pollution by driving less and buying less. (Put the money you’ll save into a diaper fund – you’re going to need a lot of them soon!)