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Air Pollution and Pregnancy

If you live in the city, you know you're not breathing the best air around. Cars, trucks, furnaces, and industrial machinery all spew poisonous carbon monoxide into the air. If you breathe in a lot of second-hand smoke from cigarettes and cigars, you're also taking in carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless gas that causes sudden death at high levels of concentration. You've heard stories, undoubtedly, about entire families who have died in their sleep because of furnace malfunctions that filled their houses with carbon monoxide. You've probably heard, too, that people commit suicide by closing the garage doors and sitting in a car with the motor running; it doesn't take long for the carbon monoxide (produced by the car) to kill. Obviously, carbon monoxide is not good for your growing baby.

Baby Talk

Fetal growth retardation is an abnormality of fetal growth inside the womb that causes a tenfold increase in mortality.

When carbon monoxide enters the body it interferes with the blood's ability to bring oxygen to all body parts and organs. Without oxygen, the body soon shuts down. In the fetus, carbon monoxide crosses the placenta and reduces the amount of oxygen that is delivered and circulated. This can cause a condition called fetal growth retardation.

Although carbon monoxide is dangerous, it's not necessary to start holding your breath every time you walk outside. A few commonsense precautions will keep your baby perfectly healthy:

Millions of healthy babies are born to mothers who live in smog-choked cities and who spend lots of time in smoke-filled rooms. But to be on the safe side, avoid plopping yourself in the middle of a smog-filled or smoky area.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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