Environmental Toxicity and Pregnancy

Cheerful beautiful pregnant woman sitting on the sofa with a bowl full of vegetables.

“Reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents is a critical area of intervention for obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health care professionals. Patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course.”

I would have thought the above quote came from a textbook of environmental medicine designed for Integrative Doctors. It is the basic underpinning philosophy of my Preconception Pregnancy Planning Program, and that of the detoxification protocols that many Integrative Doctors do in their practice daily.

And yet the above quote is from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), as well as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Practice Committee! What took them so long?

In the article, they say that the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2003 to 2004 found that virtually every pregnant woman in the United States is exposed to at least 43 different chemicals.

They are finally pointing out that these chemicals in pregnant women cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetus. They give the example of methylmercury (as found in fish) actually being concentrated with a higher amount in the fetus than in the mother.

They go on to remind us that such prenatal exposure to pesticides has been shown to increase the risk of cancer in childhood, and that adult male exposure to pesticides is linked to altered semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer. And they point out that postnatal exposure to pesticides can interfere with all developmental stages of reproductive function in adult females, including puberty menstruation and ovulation, fertility and fecundity, and menopause.

Combine this with the recent evidence connecting these chemicals with Breast Cancer and maybe we can begin to understand the epidemic of young women with breast cancer.

ADHD symbol conceptua;l design isolated on white background. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symbol conceptual design

The ACOG article blatantly neglects to mention the role of these environmental toxins on the children’s nervous system, and the role it may be playing in the epidemic we have of Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as Attention Deficit Disorder.

In the article, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine “join numerous other health professional organizations in calling for timely action to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents while addressing the consequences of such exposure.”

I am pleased to see that they point out that Reproductive Care Professionals should counsel their patients to avoid harmful environmental exposure, but how long will this take to bring into regular practice?

The Endocrine Society in 2009 called for improved public policy to identify and regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals and recommended that “until such time as conclusive scientific evidence exists to either prove or disprove harmful effects of substances, a precautionary approach should be taken in the formulation of Endocrine Disrupting chemical policy”

The article wisely encourages professionals who are caring for pregnant women and newborns to counsel their patients to avoid pesticides in the food they eat.

In addition they advise avoiding canned food and other dietary sources of bisphenol A. Studies have shown that such efforts can significantly reduce body burdens of toxic chemicals.

In addition they go on to say that the clinician should encourage women who are pregnant or lactating to eat fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains every day, and to avoid fast food and other processed foods whenever possible. In addition they advise limiting foods high in animal fat. Sounds close to a Vegan diet!

I know that you, my patients and readers understand how delighted I am to see this coming out from such an official organization as the ACOG. It certainly puts wind in the sails of my and my Integrative Colleagues Preconception Pregnancy Planning Program.

My further comments on the information in this article are:

1.This article talks about reducing solvent, pesticide heavy-metal exposure during pregnancy. How about cleaning it out before? We now have the technology to measure a woman’s levels of solvents, pesticides and heavy metals and a way to medically detoxify them out before she conceives.

I am doing this work in my office, and the patients and I are gratified in the before and after measurements showing the effectiveness of the program.

It is very important before pregnancy to clean out as much of the solvents, pesticides, heavy metals in a woman. This is because during pregnancy, these toxins exit the mother’s organs and fat and are poured into the fetus.

2.It was surprising to me that the article only mentions that 43 chemicals are going into the fetus. We know from the seminal study done by the Environmental Working Group in 2005, that 287 chemicals are detected in umbilical cord blood at birth.

3. The article overlooks, as I mentioned above, the important fact that toxins stored in the mother’s fat and organs come out of the organs, during pregnancy, and go into the fetus. They are unaware that through Naturopathic Medicine techniques, we are able to detoxify most of these chemicals out of the mother’s body before she conceives.

Doing such detoxification of a woman before she conceives, require several months of detoxification. This can lead to some expense. For that reason, some women are reluctant to embark on such a program.

Unfortunately, these women are not realizing the costs of having a child with a neurological deficit. The organization, Autism Speaks estimates the cost of caring for an autistic person over his or her life is $2.3 million. Each person must decide what is best for them and their family.

Please give me your thoughts on all this information! My patients can tell me directly when they see me. My readers can leave me a comment on my blog, or Facebook page.

The ACOG article is HERE

About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements: