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Today, air pollution is among the biggest single environmental health risk across the world. According to reports released by world health organization, exposure to air pollution was responsible for seven million deaths in the year 2012. Today, we’ll get exposed to How Air Pollution Affects Pregnant Women.
Deaths among children, pregnant women, and adolescents account for over a third of the premature mortality burden globally. In developing countries, children are eight times likely to die before attaining five years of age.
Inhaling polluted air can cause adverse effects to your health with air pollution symptoms varying in people of different age groups. Studies suggest that pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable population group.
Researchers have for long conducted extensive research in a bid to understand the impact of pollution on pregnancy. They further strived to establish the effects of prolonged exposure to air pollution in pregnant women and their babies. Their findings are quite shocking. Here is everything you should know about the quality of air within your surroundings, where pollution emanates from, and the best ways to prevent breathing polluted air while pregnant.
Understanding Air Pollution
Air pollution presents itself in various forms. Contaminated air consists of particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, vehicle exhaust fumes, sulfur dioxide, second-hand smoke, construction emissions, chemicals, and dust. Air pollution can affect you regardless of where you are.
Symptoms of Prolonged Air Contamination Exposure
Different symptoms can indicate exposure to air contamination. They include:
- Sinus and eye irritation
- Chronic fatigue
- Severe respiratory diseases such as; asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema
- Shortness of breath and reduced lung capacity
- Heart and lung damage and
- Cancer in severe cases
While pollution is unhealthy for all living things, it has numerous effects on the elderly, people living with respiratory-related diseases, and pregnant women.
Can air pollution cause birth defects?
There are numerous effects of prolonged air pollution inhalation as seen below.
A normal pregnancy lasts for between 37 to 40 weeks and children born after the lapse of that period often weigh between 6 and 9 pounds. Babies born weighing below 5 pounds and eight ounces are said to have a low birth weight. One in every 12 children born in America are underweight due to various reasons.
Children are born underweight across the world due to different reasons. However, experts say that prolonged exposure to air contamination during pregnancy can be a major cause of low weight at birth. A study conducted in Beijing, which happens to be among the cities where air pollution is prevalent, made huge progress in linking pollution to underweight children.
Researchers studied pregnant women during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The city was given two months to minimize air contamination and enhance the quality of air. The study compared pregnant women in their eighth month at the time of the Olympics and those who delivered at the same time years before.
The former group’s babies weighed 08 ounces heavier compared to the latter. Experts are still trying to figure out the week, month, or trimester that pregnant women are most at risk of air contamination. Still, the findings of the study were convincing enough.
According to a study conducted in Harvard, pregnant women exposed to increased particulate matter contamination during their third trimesters were two times more likely to deliver a baby with autism. The prevalence was high for women whose homes were located next to highways where there is a high amount of particulates. Further, this study established that women exposed to toxic particulate matter levels during the first trimester were not at an increased risk of delivering babies with autism.
The Stockholm Environment Institute conducted a study at the York University where they established that there are approximately three million prematurely born babies annually, which they attributed to exposure to air particulate matter contamination. Prematurely born babies are at an increased risk of experiencing permanent physical disabilities and neurological complications. Of course premature birth can happen due to numerous reasons and experts reiterate the need to avoid prolonged exposure to air contamination as much as possible during pregnancy.
Inhaling polluted air can trigger asthmatic attacks. In pregnant women, this can be riskier because asthma could trigger preeclampsia, a condition which increased blood pressure while minimizing the functionality of vital body organs such as the kidneys and liver. With adequate asthma management, you and your baby will be safe.
However, failure to treat asthma-related symptoms can cause adverse effects to you and your baby such as; poor growth, lack of oxygen, low birth weight, and premature births. According to research, prolonged exposure to air pollution can put your baby at risk of developing asthma later in their life. This is because particulate matter contamination can rupture the placenta.
Are you contemplating on starting or expanding your family? You should watch out for the quality of the air you breathe. Numerous studies have established that air contamination contributes to low fertility rates in both men and women. Various studies have also linked air contamination to miscarriages.
How to Remain Safe From Air Pollution During pregnancy
You may not be able to protect yourself and your baby from all potential threats to your health. However, you can try to minimize your exposure to air contamination. The following tips will help you safeguard your health.
Purchase an Air Purifier
Studies suggest that the quality of indoor air is poorer compared to outdoor air. EPA reports that a big percentage of American residents spend a big percentage of their lives indoors where contaminants are between two to five times more compared to outside. A good quality air purifier can help you find effective solutions to this problem.
Air purifiers eradicate all airborne pollutants such as allergens, smoke, mold, and germs from the air in your environment. This not only enhances the quality of your indoor air but protects you and your baby from adverse health problems caused by inhaling contaminated air.
Scrutinize the Air Quality Index
The World Health Organization in 2014 reported that approximately 92% of the global population lived in places with poor air quality. As much as the air in your surrounding may feel and look safe, it’s important to check the air quality index report within your zip code daily. It will help you establish particulate contamination levels and the steps you should take to keep yourself protected.
Keep Your Air Safeguarded
Whenever you cook, paint your home, utilize hair spray, or even light a fire, you instigate pollutants in the air around your home. As many people become more health conscious, manufacturers are introducing eco-friendly products which you can utilize to clean your home. You can guarantee a healthy environment by; conducting regular checks for mold, utilizing a vent hood whenever you are cooking, and making use of carbon monoxide detectors.
Grow Air-Purifying Plants
Some plants can filter the air in your home naturally and provide fresh air for you and your baby to breathe. These include various ranges of the snake and spider plants which are popularly known for eliminating volatile organic compounds from your air, as well as replacing carbon dioxide with clean and fresh oxygen. For cleaner air, ensure you have plants in every 100 square feet.
The skin is the largest body organ which is capable of absorbing up to 100% of the contaminants it encounters. When you are pregnant, you share everything with your unborn baby from drinks, food, and the air your breathe. While wearing a mask could reduce the number of contaminants you transmit to your baby, it does little to offer comprehensive protection.
This is because particulate matter can still penetrate your body through the skin. For instance, if the weather forecast within your locality asks you to stay home to protect yourself from potential air contamination, it’s only safe to adhere. Use your air purifier at home and enjoy more protection.
Having a Successful Pregnancy During Winter
The beginning of winter is a cue that you need to take extra special care of yourself especially during pregnancy. Wearing appropriate clothing and eating well will enhance your immunity level as well as help you maintain a hydrated skin. Here are some tips to help you get through winter while pregnant.
Get a Good Quality Winter Jacket
Keeping yourself warm and comfortable is the most critical thing during winter. If you don’t have a superior quality winter jacket, try and get one. Rather than buying maternity clothing for winter, buying a good winter jacket is more sustainable and valuable. After all, you can only wear your maternity clothing for a limited time.
Drink Lots of Water
The chilly weather during winter can discourage you from drinking water. Remember that as a pregnant woman, your body needs sufficient water to keep you well hydrated. What’s more, your body requires extra water during winter. Try as much as possible to take the recommended amount of water every day.
While you may be tempted to substitute water with other beverages, experts advise against it. Today, technology has advanced and there are various free water intake applications you can install in your phone. Set reminders and be sure to know the water quantity you need per day. Remember, dehydration can be a major cause of various pregnancy-related problems and even preterm births.
Remember, winter comes with various airborne pollutants and keeping you and your baby safe should be your first priority. Have a good quality air purifier at hand and change the filters regularly to guarantee effectiveness.