Avoid toxic chemicals and go green for a healthy pregnancy!
When you’re expecting, everything from the ingredients in your food to the air you breathe eventually makes its way to your baby. Once you’ve let that reality sink in, it’s never too late (or impossible) to make some eco-conscious decisions for your own health and that of your baby and the environment. Get closer to Mother Nature by incorporating some of these green habits into your pregnancy and beyond.
You Are What You Eat (And Drink)
Since you’ll be drinking for two, staying hydrated is key. Using a purification system like Brita, Life Solutions or PUR assures you’ll get a steady stream of clean water by eliminating the harmful contaminants in your drinking supply. Check out the Hong Kong Government’s Water Supplies Department for a comprehensive report on Hong Kong’s drinking water quality.
Avoid drinking from plastic bottles (this applies to everyone, all the time and not just pregnant women). It’s been proven that toxins seep into drinking water, especially after sunlight exposure. Even supposedly safer plastics that are BPA-free are not ideal for everyday use. Instead, invest in a portable glass or stainless steel canteen bottle, which won’t leach harmful chemicals. After the baby’s delivery, turn to glass bottles and stainless steel sippy cups; companies like Kleen Kanteen and Pura are widely available in Hong Kong.
If you don’t recognise an ingredient on a food label, your body probably won’t be able to either. Adopting a more holistic approach to your diet means ridding your body of the pesticides, additives, and genetically modified contents found in conventional foods. Your baby, who won’t be able to process and eliminate the pesticides as well as you can, will reap long-term benefits from your clean diet.
When shopping, select organic options for foods like potatoes, apples, milk and beef, which have a higher nutrition profile (and much lower chemical traces) than their conventional counterparts.
Can Canned Foods
Once you’ve made a lifestyle commitment to eat as fresh and sustainably as possible, avoiding canned and packaged food comes next. The interiors of most food cans and plastics are lined with bisphenol-A or BPA, known for leaching itself into food, water, and eventually into the bloodstream. A known endocrine disruptor, prenatal BPA exposure has been linked to anomalies like chromosome alterations and even birth defects. You should also minimise your BPA exposure by storing pantry essentials in glass containers.
Natural Beauty Hacks
Makeup And Skin Products
Green up your beauty regimen by opting for makeup and skin products without any of the usual nasties – parabens, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances or preservatives. Instead opt for products that are natural, sustainable and plastic-free (bonus points if they are from local brands). You can continue this habit when the baby comes and look for moisturising lotions, sunscreens and insect repellants that safe for delicate skin.
Hair Products And Shampoos
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the hair products we swear by to ward off Hong Kong humidity are riddled with chemicals. Ditch the blend of sulfates and phthalates found in shampoos, serums and such – these chemicals have been known to cause permanent reproductive system birth defects. Rather, aim for products that are fragrance-free or contain essential oils.
As you’re shopping to accommodate your ever-changing body, be on the lookout for eco-friendly maternity wear. Swap synthetic, toxin-ridden fibres like polyester or acrylic for organic cotton, linen or silk.
Clothing lines such as MEV-Mother’s en Vogue use sustainable fibres in a wide range of nursing and maternity styles. Once you’re back to your pre-pregnancy shape, you can donate or pass on this clothing to a mum-to-be. After delivery, consider switching to newly-launched Hong Kong brand, Milki Train‘s organic breastfeeding T-shirts.
Conventional bedcovers are manufactured using a mix of pesticides, formaldehyde and dyes, eventually travelling into your bloodstream. While it’s not entirely dangerous (phew!), opt to cover up in linens made with hypoallergenic and natural fibres to minimise your sensitivities to chemical mixtures instead. Get a better night’s sleep with environmentally-friendly bedding from Bamboa, Naked Lab and Mother Organic.
A Green Home
Pure Air Fresheners
Bad news – scented plug-ins, air sprays and paraffin wax candles may smell divine but come loaded with a number of toxins to produce that artificial aroma. When inhaled, these seemingly harmless scents have been linked to diarrhoea in infants and headaches in mothers. The good news is that unprocessed deodorisers, like aromatherapy diffusers, are a far better solution for both you and baby. Of course, use safe aromatherapy oils in small doses, like lavender, citrus and eucalyptus. Alternatively, concoct your own air freshener by boiling cinnamon sticks and citrus peels in a pot, making every day smell like a holiday.
Green Cleaning Supplies
A majority of cleaning products work through a cocktail of noxious chemicals, releasing toxins and pungent odours into your home’s air. Be on the lookout for non-toxic cleaners using minimal ingredients, and avoid anything with labels like “Warning” or “Flammable”. Better yet, channel your inner DIY guru and create your own mixtures with perfectly safe items like vinegar, lemon juice, castile soap and baking soda.
Detergents with fabric softener can contain musk xylene, a potential hormone disruptor. Why not use detergents such as Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent and Chlorine-Free Bleach or the wide range of Ecos products, which are hypoallergenic, non-toxic and super concentrated. They are also easily available in supermarkets and zero-waste stores.
Purifying House Plants
With pollution at the top of everyone’s mind, adding some foliage to your home is an affordable method of detoxing the air and creating a cheerful ambience. Some plants also significantly reduce exposure to airborne toxins like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The next time you’re at the flower market, be sure to pick up a heap of Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (be careful if you have a dog though, as it’s toxic for them), Bamboo Palm, Peace Lilies or Chinese Evergreens!
DIY Home Improvements
Though you may be meticulously preparing for your baby’s nursery during this time, it’s actually not advised for you to conduct any home improvements. Using wood finishes, glues and spot removers are out of the question, as they’re full of chemicals. Should you wish to have the room painted, however, go for No-VOC paint, short for No Volatile Organic Compounds. Fortunately, you can get a range of eco-friendly paints from 513 Paint Shop and eico. The government also has green tips for home renovations.
It all begins with a small step. Apart from lowering your carbon footprint, walking has proven itself to be an ideal prenatal exercise. This low-impact leisure activity is linked to boosting pregnancy outcomes, improving your baby’s cardiovascular functions as well as reducing stress during infancy. Fortunately, living in a safe, pedestrian-friendly city like Hong Kong means having access to some of the best promenades, walkways and hiking trails!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and updated in April 2020.