About 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned, which is why maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for women who are at childbearing age and are sexually active. If you are at childbearing age and are not using any contraceptive methods, you should follow a healthy lifestyle plan. This plan doesn’t just include diet or exercise, it also includes other environmental particulars.

First of all, you should quit bad habits if you have any. These habits should be avoided before and after pregnancy for sure. You should stop smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, using drugs and stay away from people who do these, especially smokers. Smoking is probably the number one reason for adverse outcomes in a pregnancy, and some doctors darkly joke that, if it were possible, they would prefer to swap their patients smoking habit with hypertension during pregnancy, since hypertension can at least be controlled by medication. I am sure you all know or have heard that cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals and probably about 100 cancer-causing chemical compounds.

Now, first think of yourself after giving birth to your baby, how protective are you? Don’t we all do whatever we can to protect our babies from all minor and major harmful things that are out there? Of course, which is why I can’t understand why pregnant women who smoke don’t think of the well-being of their child. One guess, as we all do from time-to-time, since they don’t have their baby in hand, they can’t fully visualize the protection against harmful factors that is needed. While you smoke or stay next to a smoker during pregnancy, these chemicals enter your bloodstream, brewing your blood with toxins. In turn, these are directly transferred to your baby since blood is the only nutrient and oxygen source for the little one inside you.

Aside from well-known harmful substances, you should limit your exposure to other dangerous things including bacteria and toxic chemicals that leach into your food. One of the most frightening situations during pregnancy is to get your baby infected with toxoplasmosis. It is an infection caused by a parasite, which generally causes a symptomless illness in healthy individuals. But it is important during pregnancy, since it can infect the placenta and your unborn baby. This infection can either be mild or severe depending on your immune system. But when it is severe, toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause stillbirth, long-term neurological damage and other destructive effects. In developed countries the infection rate is estimated to be maximum one out of 1,000 births, but this can easily increase with poor hygiene in underdeveloped regions.

Scientists have estimated that the majority of toxoplasmosis infections are generally caused by consuming raw or undercooked infected meat, where you can’t notice if the meat is infected or not. Some researchers have found that eating uncooked beef increases your risk 5.5-fold and eating undercooked lamb increases your infection risk threefold. Moreover, you can also get this parasitic infection by poorly washed or unwashed contaminated produce, drinking contaminated water, handling soil in your garden, infected cat litter and even touching infected meat. In France, where toxoplasmosis infection has a high prevalence, researchers have found that having a pet cat increases your risk of infection by 4.5 times, and frequent consumption of raw vegetables outside the home increases your risk of infection as high as eating undercooked lamb meat, which is three times the regular risk. Now, if you are asking what you can do to stay away, my greatest advice will be washing your hands thoroughly every single time you do any of these.

Other toxins arise while preparing your home before the baby arrives, especially when painting your baby’s room or during general home decoration. There are three different paints that a pregnant woman would normal be exposed to including latex or acrylic, oil and enamel paints. We currently have no methodology for measuring the actual exposure to these substances; however, although some scientists say that household paint doesn’t cause high levels of exposure, there is evidence that supports the fact that some paints and solvents do cause harm to pregnant women and their developing babies. Paints either directly affect health by inhaling fumes or by the solvents used. So, it is advised for pregnant women that they should stay away from paint thinning agents, spray paints and oil paints. Latex or acrylic paints can be used during pregnancy, but if their fumes make you feel sick then you shouldn’t continue using them as well since they contain ethylene glycol ethers and biocides.

Other toxic compounds that may affect you or your baby’s health during pregnancy include Bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, fluorotelomers, and PCBs. Although new nursing essentials are currently being made by using BPA-free technology, BPA is generally not even talked about during pregnancy. BPA is one of the major components of almost all common consumer plastic products. Its chemical structure is skillful at leaching out the materials that contain it, and guess where they are dumped? Into your food, water or body directly! Scientists have shown that Bisphenol-A disrupts your endocrine (hormonal) system by mimicking hormones that are needed for fetal development. Hormones are very unique substances in our bodies, and are secreted in microparticles or nanoparticles, and this balance can easily be disrupted by big amounts of a toxic substance such as BPA. Thus, pregnant women in particular should be extra careful while eating or drinking. Of course, it’s not all bad; if we become aware of these substances and if we don’t use or ingest them, they can’t do any harm to us. For this purpose, look under your plastic food package and search for the recycle sign, which has a number inside. These numbers give us a clue of what type of plastic was used to make those packages. In order to stay away from BPA, always go for number 2 and 4. You can also use 1, but only for a single use. Moreover, if you use plastics that are not made for use in microwave ovens, then phthalates may leach into your food, which also has the similar toxic effect during pregnancy.

Additionally, during your pregnancy try to stay away from farming chemicals, lead- and mercury-containing substances or foods. If you have a hobby that involves exposure to toluene, xylene, benzene, ethylene, acetone or formaldehyde, I highly recommend that you give that hobby a break. Look after yourself and your baby while he or she is still inside you!