Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gardening Safety While Pregnant

The idea for this article came from a friend who asked me to help design a garden for pregnant ladies. That was a good question because I never thought of it and needed to do some research to make sure I could provide a complete answer.

Toxoplasmosis. The biggest gardening-related issue for pregnant women is toxoplasmosis. While more than 50 million Americans carry the parasite in their blood called toxoplasma gondii, the vast majority of people will never experience symptoms of this infection because their immune systems protect them from getting sick. This little parasite can cause an infection known as toxoplasmosis. Pregnant ladies need to take special care to avoid exposure to this unseen danger. This parasite can seriously harm an unborn baby.

The most common transmission of a toxoplasma infection is from cats. Even if you don’t have a cat you can assume that a neighborhood cat, has used your flowerbox as a toilet.

Avoiding contact with the Toxoplasma parasite is easier than you think. It is transported via cat feces. When working in the garden, wear proper gloves and avoid touching your mouth.
To reduce the risk of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis when gardening, always:
· Wear gloves when you’re touching the soil and dealing with plants.
· Wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve gardened, even if you’ve worn gloves.
· Avoid touching your face or eyes when you’re gardening and before you’ve washed your hands.

Herbicides and Insecticides. The other area to be aware of is the use of herbicides and insecticides in the garden. Many gardeners don’t think twice about spraying chemicals on to plants to protect against pests and diseases and the chances are products such as these may already have been used in your garden. But some studies suggest they could pose risks to pregnant women.
Studies into the risk of pesticides suggest that it’s during the first trimester, particularly weeks three to eight, when the most damage could be caused if you’re in contact with pesticides. This is because it’s the time when a baby’s neural tube development is occurring. Other potential risks to babies include the development of heart defects, limb defects and oral clefts.

Although there are no strict guidelines on exposure to pesticides, the American Academy of Pediatrics does suggest pregnant women don’t use pesticides at all during the course of their pregnancy, just to be on the safe side. Alternatives, such as natural or organic methods, are available instead. If pesticides are already in use, here are some safety guidelines:
· Don’t panic if you know pesticides have been used in your garden. It’s long term exposure or exposure to large quantities that poses the most danger, so a small amount is unlikely to be too harmful.
· If you can’t avoid using pesticides in your garden, avoid handling them yourself and instead get someone else to apply them.
· Always wear gloves when you’re gardening and thoroughly wash your hands when you’ve finished.

Gardening is a healthy activity even when you’re pregnant, so make the most of any good weather and enjoy spending time in your garden. Spend time in the garden during the cooler parts of the day never during the heat of the day. Drink lots and lots of water. And most of all go slow. Take it easy and don't try to do everything in one day.

Until next time, Happy Gardening

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