“Bamboozling” advice for pregnant women

Article written for ITV News, June 2013

I’m expecting a baby later this month, so for the past eight months I have been watching what I eat, trying to keep as fit and healthy as possible and doing my best to keep on top of the latest medical advice.

There is a lot of information out there. Although a lot of it is helpful, a lot of it is contradictory and a lot of it is confusing, especially to first-time mums.

This morning (5th June 2013) the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said that “mothers-to-be should be aware of unintentional chemical exposures”.

Highlighted among these “exposures” are shower gel, moisturisers and sunscreen, as well as perhaps more obvious products like paint fumes and pesticides.

New cars, tinned fruit and vegetables, and non-stick frying pans are also on the list.

Not surprisingly, Mumsnet co-founder and CEO Justine Roberts has described the report as bamboozling.

She said, “This latest list of things pregnant women might want to avoid is bamboozling because of the sheer volume of things on it which in practical terms makes it almost impossible to follow.”

Experts who have written the paper for the RCOG point out that such risks from everyday products during pregnancy are unproven, but advise women to take a “safety first” approach. They also say exposure to considerable amounts of environmental chemicals has been linked to adverse health effects in women and children, including pre-term birth, low birth weight, congenital defects, pregnancy loss as well as impairment of fertility.

Reading that as someone who is due to give birth in a matter of weeks is, quite frankly, scary.

After taking some time to look deeper into this, my own view is that if you are pregnant and have any concerns you should talk to your midwife or GP to put it all into perspective.

The RCOG wants to raise the issue that pregnant women should be aware of exposure to chemicals in everyday products, but I’m sure the experts don’t want the important things like stopping smoking and avoiding or cutting down on alcohol to be eclipsed by concerns over sitting in a friend’s new car or decorating the baby’s nursery.

The National Childbirth Trust responded to the report saying:

“The RCOG report on the effects of chemical exposure during pregnancy highlights the urgent need for further research in this area.

The lack of practical guidance for parents to help protect children from harmful chemicals can cause unnecessary anxiety for parents.

It’s unacceptable that pregnant women today are still having to make decisions without clear information on possible risks.”

So is this latest advice needlessly scaring women and distracting from the arguably more important health issues, or is it welcome advice as to what expectant mothers should be wary of?

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