Why to Detox Before Pregnancy

As many of you know, I’m the mother of two. These blessings didn’t come without struggles. I’ve lived through recurrent pregnancy loss and other complications, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about my own health and vitality. Because of these experiences, I’m passionate about helping other women in this phase of life. If you’re thinking about conceiving, there’s a lot you can do to help with fertility, successful pregnancy outcomes, and the health of your precious babe.

We live in a toxic world where exposures to chemicals and heavy metals are pervasive. They’re in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the personal care products that we slather on our skin. every. single. day.

A growing fetus is uniquely vulnerable to mom’s toxic exposures through placental transfer. A 2009 study by the Environmental Working Group identified 232 different industrial compounds and pollutants in the cord blood of 10 infants.

Exposures in the womb initiate problems long before birth. These environmental exposures are linked to lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, neurobehavioral disorders like autism, and more.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology along with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine published a formal committee opinion on this in 2013:

“Patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course. ”

Yet, this complicated topic doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. Especially when it comes to preconception counseling.

It is clear that one of the most important times to limit toxic environmental exposures is long before conception. Toxins accumulate over years and store in the bones, fat cells, and organs. Depending on a woman’s unique genetics and lifestyle, there may be decades worth of build up. During pregnancy, those toxins can be mobilized and transferred to the growing fetus. Ongoing exposures only add to the problem.

Unfortunately, that problem continues into the postpartum period, as the toxic body burden continues to be mobilized into mother’s milk.

According to the CDC’s Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Lead Exposure in Pregnant and Lactating Women, “Bone lead stores are mobilized in pregnancy and lactation for women with prior lead exposure, which is a concern since lead released into maternal blood and breast milk can adversely affect the fetus or newborn.”

A 2008 article in Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reads:  “Lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and other potentially toxic metals that are dispersed throughout the environment also have bioaccumulative features and thus are of concern to the nursing infant. The presence of lead and mercury in human milk has been extensively studied.”

Bottom line: Pregnancy and lactation are not the time to detox. If you don’t reduce your body burden of toxins before conception, your baby will be more vulnerable during both pregnancy and lactation.

It’s important to note that a preconception detox should occur more than 6 months prior to conception. It is less than ideal to mobilize stored toxins just before becoming pregnant.

Many women can prepare for pregnancy by:

Women with conditions suggestive of environmental toxicity (multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmunity), known toxic exposures, or genetic polymorphisms like MTHFR, may want to work with a functional medicine physician. We have comprehensive tests to measure the toxic body burden and guide appropriate detoxification.

For tips on reducing toxic exposures, read my article 10 Ways to Reduce Toxins in Your Life and Top 10 Foods to Support Detoxification. Stay tuned for tips on ways to optimize your body’s own natural detoxification pathways.

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I'm a functional medicine physician, gluten-free foodie, holistic mom & yogi. I think physicians should be role models when it comes to nutrition and healthy living. This is where I share that passion. Thanks for joining me!

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