Air pollution can exert a negative impact upon pregnancy. A polluted atmosphere contains air that has been corrupted by excessive concentrations of both naturally existing as well as manmade toxins and allergens.
Polluted air is further differentiated into two categories: outdoor and indoor.
Air Pollution Outdoor
The outdoor variety constitutes pollutants that impact outdoor environments and can include substances like gases, ozone, tobacco smoke and burning fuels.
Air Pollution Indoor
These pollutants are precipitated by indoor air contaminants like dust, allergens, various household products containing potentially noxious chemicals, odorless gases (like carbon monoxide and radon) and cigarette smoke.
Potential Health Impacts
Exposure to any type of air pollutant, especially over extended durations, can result in serious health consequences. Immediate health impacts can affect an individual’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems, grossly interfering with blood circulation and breathing capacities. Additionally, chronic exposure to such toxins might weaken the immune system and leave impacted people more susceptible to contracting a variety of upper respiratory infections as well as potentially serious illnesses such as cancer.
Impact of Air Pollution On Pregnancy
Air pollution is potentially harmful for everyone. However, medical researchers and physicians opine that expecting women and their unborn children are at greater risk of feeling the untoward effects of contaminated air for a host of reasons.
Impact On Expecting Women
Air pollution can impact expecting women in the following ways:
- Asthma –Asthma is an irritation of the lining of the lungs, which can result in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, breathing difficulties and expectoration of large quantities of mucous. Typically, the condition must be controlled through the use of medications, and acute attacks often require immediate medical attention. Asthma is particularly dangerous for expecting women for a few reasons. First, asthma might exacerbate or precipitate preeclampsia, which is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. Left untreated or undiagnosed, preeclampsia can ultimately lead to serious complications. Additionally, the babies of expecting asthmatic mothers stand at greater risk of oxygen deprivation, which could result in a host of potentially health-threatening consequences.
- Fertility Problems- Research conducted has shown that chronic exposure to polluted air might precipitate fertility issues. Moreover, such research also cautions that a contaminated atmosphere may increase the risk of miscarriages.
Impact On Unborn Children
Air pollution can have the following affect on unborn children:
- Autism – Scientific studies have connected air pollution to the development of autism in children.
- Birth Defects – The babies of expecting women who inhale elevated concentrations of contaminated air might possess an increased chance of developing various birth defects. These defects can affect physical, social and mental development.
- Low Birth Weight – Studies have shown that air pollution can be a significant contributing factor in children born at abnormally low weights. This condition can delay a baby’s development and put them at an increased risk of numerous health problems.
- Premature Birth – A Swedish study concluded that almost 20% of all premature births can be linked to air pollution. Babies born too early often stand at greater risk for contracting illnesses or experiencing developmental disabilities.
Cautionary Measures for Expecting Women
To live, expecting women must breathe. Therefore, completely avoiding all forms of air pollution is virtually impossible. That said, however, there are certain safeguards these women can employ that may limit the potential associated dangers to themselves and their unborn children.
Such precautionary measures include:
- Stay Indoors As Much As Possible – Whenever possible, expecting women are advised to stay indoors. Remaining in a confined environment is arguably the best and most efficient method of avoiding exposure to dangerous outdoor pollutants.
- Purify Surrounding Air – Mothers-to-be are encouraged to purify the air they ingest. This task can be executed through the purchase and installation of an air purifying machine. Such machines are said to be particularly effective at removing indoor pollutants, like allergens and cigarette smoke.
- Avoid Exposure to Known Toxins – Medical professionals strongly advise expecting women not to engage in any activities that increase their exposure to known pollutants, such as painting or industrial cleaning. However, if expecting mothers must partake in such activities, they are encouraged to do so in adequately ventilated places.