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Madeline Schmitz

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

These potentially harmful products are probably in your home—but a few simple steps can help protect baby.

New research suggests that many women aren't really aware of the toxins they should avoid that could pose a danger to baby's health. Sure, we know to avoid drinking and cigarettes, but those things are pretty much common sense. Obstetricians across the country, however, are realizing that they need to spend more time talking to patients about other toxins that they should steer clear of while pregnant. Wondering what they are? Well, here you go:

1. Air Fresheners 

Many air fresheners contain phthalates, which are plasticizers that have been linked to birth defects in test subjects (note: the subjects were rodents). They also contain artificial fragrances and chemicals that could potentially get into baby's lungs and cause wheezing or asthma after birth. These risks are super low, so using them infrequently shouldn't be a problem, but it's just something to keep in mind.

2. Dish Soap 

Most dish soaps are perfectly harmless, and you shouldn't have a problem using them while pregnant. A few, however, contain an antibacterial agent called triclosan, which has been found to disrupt the metabolization of estrogen, which is necessary to help the development of a fetus. Check the ingredients list to minimize the risk.

3. Plastic Containers

From disposable water bottles to carry-out boxes, coming in contact with plastic containers can be bad for baby's health. Many of these containers contain bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to birth defects. How common are BPAs? Well, a 2011 study of more than 250 pregnant women found that every single one of them had traces of the chemical in her system. To avoid BPA, bring a reusable stainless steel water bottle to the gym and eat fresh veggies instead of canned ones. When you bring leftovers to work for lunch, don't reheat them in a plastic container, but transfer them to a microwave-safe plate. It's basically impossible to keep BPAs completely out of your system, but these simple changes can be a start.

4. Household Cleaners

Rule of thumb? If your household cleaner has the words "Poison" or "Toxic" on the label, don't use it—even if such products didn't bother you pre-pregnancy. Lots of these cleaning products can seriously irritate your lungs and even get into baby's lungs, so avoid them if you can. Dr. Naomi Stotland, a professor at UC San Francisco, says, "Many women feel a mistaken belief that you need to use strong chemicals to keep your house clean, but that's not backed up by science. You can use water and soap, vinegar and lemon juice—these aren't harmful."

5. Grocery Store Produce

Or at least store-bought produce that's laden with harmful pesticides. If you can, buy organic produce or grow your own while you're pregnant. New studies are coming out frequently that confirm that pesticides can be extremely harmful to baby. If you have to buy produce at a large grocery store, that's okay—just make sure you wash everything off before eating it.