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Pregnancy, especially your ﬁrst, upends your life in unexpected ways. Motherhood looms and you’re madly trying to ﬁgure out how to give your baby the healthiest start. So it’s no surprise when you also ﬁnd yourself evaluating the health of the world your infant is about to enter.
“It’s pretty universal, in my experience,” says Gina Solomon, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the pediatric environmental health specialty unit at the University of California, San Francisco, and senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental action group. “Women are confronting some critical decisions when they’re pregnant.”
Here are five ways you can do right by yourself, your baby and the planet when you’re pregnant.
One of the first rules of a healthy pregnancy is to stay hydrated. “You need to drink for two while you’re expecting,” says Solomon. Your blood volume increases dramatically, and you’re flushing two people’s waste through your kidneys. Meanwhile, your fetus constantly swallows the amniotic fluid and pees in it. To keep “refreshing” that fluid, you need liquids throughout the day.
How to get them? Probably not from swigging lattes because caffeine is a real concern: Drinking more than 300 milligrams daily, or the amount in about two cups of java, has been associated with miscarriage in early pregnancy. Nor should you rely on diet sodas, which contain artificial sweeteners, or regular sodas and processed fruit juices, which are loaded with sugar calories.
Good old-fashioned water is best, and you shouldn’t buy it in plastic bottles. Such water is seldom cleaner than tap, it’s not as well-regulated, and some brands are municipal water with a fancy label. Worse, in the U.S., only a quarter of those bottles are recycled!
Moms-to-be are especially vulnerable to water-borne contaminants, however, and because no water is perfectly clean, you’ll probably need a kitchen filter. But before you buy one, learn what’s in your tap water. “City dwellers usually find that a carbon filter, such as a Brita or PUR pitcher or faucet attachment, is adequate,” says Solomon. If you live in an area with serious water-quality problems, as in some rural regions, you may need a filter that can handle such pollutants as pesticides, solvents and arsenic. “Reverse osmosis devices work, but they’re expensive and waste water, so check to see if they’re necessary,” Solomon says. Call your water utility, or visit its website for a look at its consumer confidence report (CCR). Read what it says under “detection” to see which contaminants are found in your water. Lead levels can vary dramatically from house to house, so you also might want to test for lead. For information on filters and testing, visit nrdc.org/water/drinking/gfilters.asp.
YOU are less likely to suffer from constipation, fatigue, hemorrhoids and bladder infections. Being well-hydrated also prevents water retention.
YOUR BABY is exposed to fewer water-borne contaminants and toxins. Because dehydration can cause contractions, the risk of premature birth is lower.
THE PLANET will be less polluted, with fewer plastic bottles floating in its rivers and oceans.