Parenthood doesn’t begin with the birth of your baby; it starts in pregnancy. When you discover you’re pregnant, you instinctively enter protection mode. You might even research ways to keep yourself as healthy as possible to keep your baby healthy. It’s a mindset familiar to parenthood.
One way to keep yourself healthy is to provide a healthy environment for yourself by reducing your exposure to pollutants, chemicals, and other toxins because it can affect your child.
Prenatal exposure to toxins in the environment can contribute to learning, behavioral, or intellectual impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder. Neuroscience research reveals “critical windows of vulnerability” to toxins as during embryonic and fetal development, infancy, early childhood, and adolescence.
Children cannot reach their full potential when exposure to environmental toxins during these critical windows of development can permanently harm their brains. So, what about the effect of mold exposure during pregnancy? Will mold harm your baby? And should you avoid mold during pregnancy? Let’s answer these critical questions one by one.
What is the Problem with Mold?
Most of us stiffen when we hear the word “mold.” Mold grows in warm, damp, and humid environments. You can find more than 100,000 types of mold on the earth, and not all of them are bad for you.
Mold is a fungus, and if it’s a toxic type, it releases mycotoxins, which are poisons that can cause mold sickness. The mold itself doesn’t make you sick, the mycotoxins do.
There are three types of mold that cause health problems in people:
Allergenic molds cause typical allergy symptoms such as watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. They can also trigger chest tightness, cough, and asthma.
Pathogenic molds cause mycoses infections caused by fungi.
Toxigenic molds produce mycotoxins and are the most dangerous because they cause diseases such as cancer, neurologic problems, and immune suppression.
What Is the Effect of Mold Exposure During Pregnancy?
This is a critical question, and there aren’t clearcut answers because of a lack of research. What we do know is that exposure to toxic molds is dangerous for anyone, including pregnant women.
It doesn’t appear that symptoms from allergenic molds are worse for someone who is pregnant. Pathogenic molds cause mycoses infections, which are dangerous, just as all infections can be during pregnancy.
Although we don’t have conclusive research on this topic, we do know that mold sickness is systemic, meaning it affects every area of your body. Hence, it’s reasonable to infer that it is also harmful to a growing fetus.
Will Mold Exposure During Pregnancy Harm My Preborn Baby?
Toxic mold exposure is linked to miscarriages and congenital deformities, but there isn’t research data to definitively conclude cause and effect or how mold exposure during pregnancy affects preborn babies. However, we do know the dangerous impact that toxic mold exposure has on infants, children, and adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that exposure to toxic mold during infancy can cause asthma in children. Mold exposure in infants has also been linked to lung hemorrhage, lethargy, and memory loss, but it isn’t proven. More research is needed.
It’s impossible to avoid all mold exposure while you’re pregnant because mold is everywhere. However, it is important to avoid toxic mold as well as prolonged exposure to excessive amounts of mold, especially during pregnancy. Let’s look at practical ways you can do that.
Avoid Mold on Foods
Sometimes mold on food is obvious because you see it on the surface. By the time a food shows mold growth, “root” threads that you can’t see have invaded the food. In toxic food molds, poisonous mycotoxins are not only in and around these threads but can also have spread throughout the food.
For that reason, it’s best not to remove a moldy portion from food and eat the rest. It’s also best not to eat food surrounding the item that has visible mold.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 25% of food crops contain mycotoxins, most commonly aflatoxins. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA try to monitor crops for aflatoxins, it may be best to avoid the four foods most frequently contaminated with it while you’re pregnant. These four foods include peanuts and peanut products, corn, wheat, and oilseeds (i.e., cottonseeds).
- It’s also a good idea to refrain from consuming meat, milk, and eggs from grain-fed animals.
- Cured meats such as salami and pepperoni are other foods to avoid while you’re pregnant since they’re made with mold cultures.
- Not all molds used to make cheeses are dangerous while you’re pregnant. Typically, it’s safe to eat hard cheese, but verify that with your obstetrician. Don’t eat soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, and chevre, which have white surface molds. Also, avoid blue-veined cheese such as Roquefort, blue, gorgonzola, and stilton.
Also, keep in mind that mold spores from food can build up in your refrigerator, dishcloths, and utensils, so cleanliness is crucial to controlling mold in your kitchen. Here are additional tips for reducing mold in your home.
Reducing Mold in Your Home Environment
Since warm, damp, and humid places promote mold growth, below are a few tips to keep your home environment cool and dry.
- Keep the humidity level in the house below 40-50%.
- Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months.
- Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Clean your bathrooms with natural mold-killing products or even better, have someone else clean your bathrooms.
- Do not install or put carpet in bathrooms and basements.
- If you discover mold, have it professionally tested and removed. Do not clean it yourself, especially while you’re pregnant.
If you have concerns about mold exposure or your environment, our team at The LaCava Center is highly trained and experienced to answer your questions. Contact us today for an appointment. We look forward to serving you!