Air Pollution and Pregnancy - Impact and Tips to Avoid

Breathing Polluted Air during Pregnancy – Consequences and How You Can Protect Yourself

When you come to know that you are pregnant, you start taking extra care and precaution regarding your diet and lifestyle. You eat fruits and vegetables, drink loads of water, go for a walk, take rest, and plan to do everything for a healthy pregnancy. But have you ever wondered if the air that you breathe is good during pregnancy? Pollution is one of the biggest problems in our country. Polluted air is harmful to us, particularly for pregnant women. But what can you do if you are breathing the polluted air during pregnancy? Find out here and protect yourself.

What Is Air Pollution?

The presence of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, building emissions, vehicle exhaust, chemicals, dust and other harmful substances in the air, pollutes the air. Air pollution can be detrimental to your health, hence taking precautions is a must.

What Are the Common Types of Air Pollutants?

The air you breathe in your office or at any other confined place, or in the open is polluted. Find out what pollutes this air:

1. Outdoor Pollutants

Outdoor pollutants are usually more prominent in towns and cities which have more automobile exhaust or industrial emissions. Every town or city may have different levels of air pollution, which may depend on the temperature, weather conditions, geographical location, wind, and other such variables. Nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone (O3), particulate matter etc., are some common types of outdoor air pollutants.

2. Indoor Pollutants

We spend about 60 to 80 percent of our lives indoors. This means that if the indoor environment is polluted, we may get more affected by it than the outdoor pollution. The major reasons for indoor pollution are heating appliances, smoke, paints, furniture polishes, vapours from the building material etc.

As a pregnant woman, you should protect yourself from both the kinds of pollutants as these can be harmful to you and your unborn baby.

Symptoms of Prolonged Air Pollution Exposure

Following are the health problems you may come across if you are exposed to air pollution:

Air pollution can be fatal for pregnant women, children, and babies with respiratory conditions.

A pregnant woman coughing

Health Problems That Pregnant Women May Face Due To Air Pollution

Every now and then new facts and figures keep emerging stating the adverse effects of pollution on pregnant women and the babies. Find out what all problems it may lead to during pregnancy:

1. Effects on Mom

Some of the common diseases that air pollution may cause in a mother are

  • Asthma

During pregnancy, any kind of prolonged exposure to air pollutants may lead to asthma, which may further result in preeclampsia. Preeclampsia may lead to increased blood pressure that may adversely affect the functioning of kidneys and liver. Also, if a mother gets exposed to excessive air pollution, it may increase the chances of her baby developing asthma later in life.

  • Pre-term Labour or Premature Delivery

When exposed to fine particulate matter which is usually emitted by diesel engines or agricultural fires, you may inhale tiny particles that may reach your lungs and lead to lung infection or heart condition. A pregnant woman is also at an increased risk of going into preterm labour.

  • Medial Issues

Exposure to indoor pollutants such as fumes emitted in a newly painted room or from freshly varnished furniture may lead to medical issues in pregnancy. These issues may include fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness etc.

A pregnant woman nauseated

  • Fertility Complications

Air pollution may not only affect your present pregnancy but may also affect your subsequent pregnancies. Being exposed to air pollutants can lead to fertility problems in women who are trying to conceive. It has been observed that women and men who have been the victims of excessive air pollution face fertility complications.

2. Effects on the Foetus

There are many potential health conditions that may affect your baby. Here are some common issues that your baby may have if you are exposed to air pollutants.

  • Low Birth Weight

The usual or normal weight of a baby born between 38 to 40 weeks of pregnancy is around 6 to 8 pounds; however, if a baby is born with less than five pounds of weight, it can be termed as low birth weight (LBW). It is suspected that being exposed to unhealthy or polluted air may alleviate a woman’s chances of delivering a low birth weight baby.

  • Autism

If a pregnant woman is exposed to high particulate matter during the third trimester, it increases the risk of delivering a baby with autism. The risk increases substantially if you stay near a highway where you are more likely to get affected with particulate matter.

  • SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

If you are exposed to passive smoking during pregnancy, it may put you and your baby in immense danger. Air pollution is also linked to sudden infant death syndrome in babies.

  • Long-Term Medical Conditions

Sometimes apart from immediate health complications, air pollution may lead to long-term fatalities too. It is seen that the impact of air pollution on pregnancy may sometimes lead to intrauterine inflammation, which may affect the health of your baby in the foetal stage and even during his childhood phase or even in adolescence.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Air Pollution during Pregnancy

In order to have a healthy and safe pregnancy, you need to save yourself and your baby from the ill-effects of air pollution. We shall acquaint you with some tips to protect yourself from air pollution during pregnancy:

1. From Outdoor Air Pollution

Exercise caution while stepping outside and follow some of these tips:

  • To protect yourself from outdoor air pollution, don’t go out at times when the pollution is more; step out during the safer times. It has been observed that air pollution reaches its peak during afternoons; therefore, go out either in the mornings or after the sunset.
  • If you have to drive, make sure you take the roads which have lesser traffic. Also, ensure that the garage door is open before you start your car to save yourself from inhaling toxic fumes.
  • Make sure you walk, exercise or do any form of exercises in green and open spaces.
  • It is important that you keep a tab of air quality before setting out. There are many phone apps available that may help you establish the same.

2. From Indoor Air Pollution

Adopting some of the following tips may help you stay safe and healthy indoors:

  • Avoid going into freshly painted rooms. If you have to go, make sure you wear a mask and open all the doors and windows.
  • Stay away from smoking zones or people who smoke. If someone in your family or friend circle smokes, avoid being in their close proximity.
  • Refrain from opening doors and windows during unsafe times, especially if you stay in the heart of the city with too much traffic. You may open doors and windows during early mornings for some fresh air.
  • Many household cleaning products may contain harmful chemicals too, therefore, do not use them or use them sparingly. Make sure you wear gloves and mask while handling such products.

Staying safe is important to ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy and childbirth. So, take the necessary measures to save yourself from the effects of air pollution.

Also Read: Pest Control during Pregnancy – Is It Harmful

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.