Many allergies develop within baby’s first year. But as an expecting mother, there are steps you can take to help lower your baby’s risk of developing allergies.
Greening Your Womb
When it comes to developing allergies, babies in utero are very sensitive to immune disruption. And environmental changes in the last 50 years are increasing the risk of allergic disease. The risk to a baby from environmental exposures is highest in the first trimester, during the earliest stages of development.
Here’s how to green your womb and reduce exposures during pregnancy that may affect a fetus. This should go hand-in-hand with prenatal care for your microbiome.
Infections during pregnancy can be very disruptive to a growing baby. Even if the virus does not infect the baby, the immune response can affect fetal brain and circulatory system development. Another study found that GI infections during pregnancy could activate immune cells that enter into the fetus’ brain, potentially causing a number of diseases including autism.
Reducing a mother’s risk of infection through simple, practical steps should be a no-brainer. Avoid contact with sick people (or wear a face mask!). Wash your hands often, before each time you eat, and avoid touching your face. Do not eat raw or uncooked foods that could make you sick.
Get a flu vaccine if it is flu season and make sure anyone you live with or spend time in close contact with is also vaccinated against the flu to protect you. Some states also offer vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis during pregnancy as a new strategy to reduce the risk of infection in mothers and babies.
More and more studies are showing that maternal exposures to chemicals, especially those breathed in, can increase the risk of allergic disease.
One study noted that the children of bakers, dental assistants, electronic assemblers, and bookbinders who breathe in a lot of chemicals were more likely to develop allergic disease.
Additionally, latex and biocide/fungicide exposure during pregnancy increased the likelihood of wheezing in future children.
Prenatal exposure to household cleaning chemicals is associated with the development of allergies, and house painting has been also identified as a risk factor for developing early eczema (wet wall paint releases volatile chemicals that are breathed in).
Lastly, mothers today are constantly exposed to chemicals and fragrances in personal care products, drugs, processed food, perfumes, and bleaches.
For mothers working certain vocations, time off is perhaps not a possibility, but it may be possible to use face coverings during work or change roles to reduce exposure to breathed in flours and chemicals.
Pregnant women may want to avoid cleaning products (make your partner do it!), or switch to more natural products. And there is a strong rationale to go as chemical-free as possible with soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, make-up, and any other personal care products.
Mom’s Allergic Triggers
We know that family history of allergic disease in a mother or father increases the risk of allergic disease in a baby, but the mother’s influence appears to be the stronger one. Specifically, flares during pregnancy are associated with the development of eczema and asthma in a child.
It is hypothesized that if a mother’s asthma is repeatedly triggered during pregnancy, the baby is exposed to more immune activity and possibly even the antigens from their mother.
Avoiding your allergic triggers can help reduce the risk of further allergic disease in a baby.