3 - 8% of all pregnant women suffer with asthma. One-third of them find that their asthma is getting worse during pregnancy. Another third of women find that their asthma symptoms improve and in the remaining third, it tends to stay the same throughout their pregnancy. In the later months, breathlessness often worsens due to the pressure on the diaphragm from the growing foetus.
Poorly controlled asthma can have an effect on both the mother and the child. It can lead to pre-eclampsia, a potentially very serious condition affecting the mother, and the baby may be subject to restricted growth and oxygen deprivation. That is why it is essential to gain optimum control over your asthma symptoms when you are pregnant. Sticking with your prescribed medication is an important part of this.
Understandably, most women will want to minimise their use of medication during pregnancy. This is why allergen avoidance is more important during pregnancy than ever before. While there have been studies showing that maternal exposure to external air pollution can harm the unborn child, there is not much information about how exposure to indoor air pollution may affect the unborn child. That reflects a general lack of knowledge on how indoor air pollution affects health.
The "Born in Bradford" study, one of the largest UK studies in child health, covering 10,000 babies born in the city, will provide some answers on the impact of indoor air pollution. The air quality in the homes of pregnant women is being measured to see how it affects the health of the child. It will be several years before the results are known. In the meantime, it makes sense for pregnant women to ensure their indoor air quality is as good as possible.
One indoor air pollutant that is well documented to have an adverse effect on the unborn child is cigarette smoke. Smoking affects the developing lung, reduces the baby’s oxygen and damages the placenta. Therefore, children born of a mother who smoked in pregnancy seem to be more likely to develop asthma or wheezing in early life.
Other indoor air pollutants to look out for during pregnancy include:
Airborne particulate pollution can effectively be removed with an air purifier, preferably one fitted with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. If you are concerned about gaseous pollution, look for an air purifier that also has an activated high-quality granular carbon filtration, such as the IQAir HealthPro 250.
Airborne particles and gas molecules, however, are only part of the problem. There is also settled dust in bedding, soft furnishings, on surfaces, and in carpets. This can contain millions of particles of house dust mite allergens, mould spores and so on. Therefore, regular dusting with special allergy-friendly cleaning products such as the ADMS Anti-Allergen Dust Spray and washing of bedding with Allergen Wash Laundry Detergent should be part of the routine to minimise indoor allergen load.
Damp in the home can seriously impair air quality by encouraging the growth of mould. Modern homes tend to be a bit too cosy and well-insulated, which is good for energy efficiency but bad for ventilation. The kitchen and bathroom are the main places where damp patches may occur. So it’s a good idea to open the windows during or after cooking, and similarly after showers or baths.
If you are pregnant, it’s likely you have some DIY or decorating planned to make a bedroom for the new arrival. This is a good opportunity to take further measures to improve your indoor air quality. When purchasing paints and other DIY products, look out for low or zero formaldehyde/ VOC options. Formaldehyde, which is one of the most potent indoor pollutants, can off-gas from walls and furniture for many months to come. If the paintwork is being done in your home, or if there is a smoker, consider investing in anIQAir GC MultiGas, a medical grade air purifier specifically designed for chemical and odour pollution.
This is also a good time to think about de-cluttering rooms. Soft furnishings and carpets collect allergen-containing dust. If possible, remove carpets and lay hard flooring. Or perhaps take this opportunity to give the carpet deep steam clean? We would recommend making the nursery a low-allergen zone from the start with barrier covers against house dust mite on mattresses, duvet covers and pillows. Soft toys will likely give your child a lot of pleasure, but they do harbour house dust mite. Destroy mites by washing soft toys and comfort blankets with Allergen Wash Laundry Detergent. In general, keep the baby’s room as simple as possible. This is easier for you to keep clean and tidy and less allergen exposure for them.