It is the winter season and love is in the air. Wait, no, particulate matter is in the air! We have succeeded in damaging our air quality to ‘severe’ from ‘poor’. Earlier, the said pollution posed health perils to humans walking the surface of the earth. But now, it has managed to reach the insides of a pregnant woman and affect a fetus.
Air pollution is a fact of life now. With growing health concerns, research is being routinely done to find solutions. But it is no news that air pollution significantly affects pregnancy. It has adverse health manifestations on both, mother and child.
This week on LadiesAndBabies, we will expand on the various facets of air pollution and its association with pregnancy. Before we discuss what threats air pollution presents to pregnant women, we have to grasp why is there a threat in the first place.
How does Air Pollution Affect Pregnancy?
With the rise of industrialization, humans have injured the climate to great stretches. Industrial smoke, excessive toxic fumes from vehicles, and other sources of pollution continue to add to the already sad state of the world. It is not difficult to understand that the presence of harmful substances like gases and particulates in the air can cause health hazards. Poor air quality leads to conditions like heart diseases, asthma, lung cancer, irritation to eyes, throat infections and even death.
Pregnancy is a delicate time when women are advised to practice more caution. However, it is inevitable to avoid air. The poor quality of the air around us is filled with various proportions of particulate matter.
The bigger particles are easy to sneeze or cough out from the body. But the smaller particulates can penetrate the lungs and be trapped there. Through the lungs, these matter particles find their way into the bloodstream. The pollution is thus able to travel beyond the lungs to the placenta of the women and hence affects the fetus.
- According to the WHO, nearly 4.2 million deaths occur annually due to air pollution.
- Particulate matter smaller than 2.5 μm in diameter can move through the tissue of a person.
- The risk of losing pregnancy is increased by 16% due to raised levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.
Health Effects of Air Pollution on Pregnancy
Research has only been able to scratch the surface on this issue. Nonetheless, the findings in studies on air pollution affecting pregnancy are alarming. It leads to diverse health issues. Some of these are:
- Low birth weight
- Preterm Birth
- Neurological disorders in the child
- Permanent physical disabilities
- Fertility problems
Cautions to Take
Pregnancy is a time where you are loaded with advice and suggestions. Everyone keeps telling you what to eat, what to drink, what to avoid, how much to avoid. But there is little or no guidance about the air you breathe. You may not be able to steer clear of these health hazards completely, but you can still practice alertness and benefit from precautions.
So all the pregnant women, gear up and follow these:
Make it an everyday custom to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) in your area. You can simply type your area code followed by AGI in the google search bar to get results. Knowing the quality of air around you can help you take the necessary steps and plan your day carefully. If the AQI is good, you can spend the day outdoors and enjoy the sun. However, if it is poor, you would be asked to stay inside in the comfort of your home.
Read more about Air Quality Index in India: Beyond Danger Level
Use Air Purifiers
Air Purifiers should be your companion during pregnancy. It ensures that the air beside you and your baby are not contaminated.
Protect the Air at Your Home
Pollution is pollution, be it indoors or outdoors. It is necessary to clean the environment you stay in. Air pollution may be able to make its way into your house when you cook, through paints or if there is a smoker inside the house. Ensure that your house is ventilated. Turn on the exhaust fan in the kitchen after you cook a meal. Avoid getting near paints and stop smoking, if your partner smokes, ask them to stop right away.
Close Windows or Doors Facing Roadways
If your house is located near a road that is jammed heavily, it is advised that you shut the door facing that road. Toxic pollution particles present in the vehicle’s fumes can enter your house and impact your health.
Get Air purifying plants
You may not be able to put an air purifier in every room. There is an alternative, you can buy air purifying plants. These plants come in various sizes and will add to the decor of your home. The natural ability of these plants to filter the air around you will benefit you and your child.
Read more about how indoor plants help you in purifying the air inside your at Bring Home Top 12 Air Purifying Plants in India
A pregnant woman’s exposure to air pollution today is equal to smoking a cigarette. It is as harmful as it can get. And not just pregnant women, but all of us have to safeguard ourselves and our future generations from these toxic substances.
Take one step at a time – use public transportation to work, avoid using plastic, try carpooling, support organic industries and more. If measures against pollution are not taken now, we may be subjected to more health threats in the future. So get educated and active with the urgency to battle air pollution.
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