3 Questions to Ask if You’re Pregnant

doctor puts stethoscope on pregnant bellyPregnant? Get ready for the god complex. Every mom I know talks about the saint that delivered her baby. The doctor’s word is taken as law, and heaven forbid your birth partner suggest otherwise. But are you and your doctor truly in sync?

In 2012, a University of San Francisco study of more than 2,000 obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide found that although they routinely discuss smoking, alcohol, diet and weight gain, most doctors do not warn their patients about environmental hazards as related to pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor knows the answers to these important questions that can protect your children’s health.

Yet studies link low levels of toxic chemicals in pregnancy to disruption of fetal brain and reproductive system development, as well as increased risks of birth defects, cancer, immune problems, asthma and other problems later in life.

In fact, in 2013, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine released a joint statement that said: “toxic chemicals in our environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies and are associated with numerous long-term health problems.”

Common sense, right? Apparently, not to the American Chemistry Council, which released a response through the Associated Press stating that the report would create “confusion and alarm among expectant mothers.”

I would say pregnant women would be alarmed by the ACOG/ASRM statement. But confused? There’s nothing confusing about these reproductive experts’ statement, nor is their anything unclear about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position, as stated in 2011, which recognized that pesticides are associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems, and recommended that pediatricians work with parents to help reduce the use of pesticides in homes and yards.

It’s pretty clear to me that the gynecologists, obstetricians and pediatricians who are primarily responsible for our children’s health are unified with the common goal of reducing exposure to toxic chemicals—especially in pregnancy.

Writing off pregnant women as “confused” by the truth that low doses of toxic chemicals can be dangerous, especially to children, is misguided logic. As parents, we need to get empowered about the decisions that can affect the health of our children. If you’re pregnant, or thinking about it, here are a few questions to ask the doctor you’re considering having deliver your baby:

  1. Should I be concerned about mercury in fish?
  2. Is organic food important during pregnancy?
  3. How can I reduce the amount of VOCs in my environment?

IMHO, the answers I’d want to hear are:

  1. Yes, avoid fish during pregnancy and supplement with omega-3 oils.
  2. Since studies have shown links between pesticides in pregnancy and lower birth weight babies with shorter term pregnancies; you should eat organic as much as you can.
  3. Use no VOC paints and avoid new synthetic carpets and furniture, especially those which are made with formaldehyde.

If your doctor doesn’t have answers or want to research these issues, consider whether or not he or she is the right doctor for you. Because if you’re going to choose a god for nine (ten) months, it should be someone you can trust to be as current—or more so—than you are about information that’s crucial to your baby’s health.

Portions of this story originally appeared on my Huffington Post column.



  1. Like Linda, all I was told to avoid was smoking, tea, coffee and alcohol when I was pregnant and since and the only one that applied to me was tea, it was an easy to simply switch to decaf tea. Mom’s these days have more to frightened about, not because things have become less safe, but rather because our knowledge and ability to share these facts has increased dramatically. Love your analogy of OBGYN to God. Ain’t that the truth!

    • Rachel Sarnoff says

      I agree, and I think we as moms need to not be afraid of that knowledge just because we didn’t know it when we were pregnant BEFORE but instead share it with all the moms who are coming after! Thanks for commenting, Hayley!

  2. Oops, that was supposed to say “What GREAT questions to ask!” Sorry for the typo. This is what happens when I type before I’ve had lunch.

  3. What questions to ask! I had my kids over 20 years ago and it’s amazing how much more there is to be concerned with now. I remember avoiding alcohol, coffee and sushi, but didn’t know to be wary of mercury in other fish. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Except for maybe mercury in fish, I don’t recall my doctor sharing any of this current advice with me when I was pregnant just a few years ago. Why in the world is the American Medical Association so far behind the times by not having better information sharing via doctors?

    • Rachel Sarnoff says

      I don’t know if it’s the fault of the AMA, but I think there is a challenge for doctors in the amount of time they spend with their patients. The more we as patients can start the conversation, the more information we should receive. And, hopefully, the engagement might inspire doctors to start talking about these things with their other patients! Thanks for commenting, Anne!

  5. You gotta love how the chemical industry doesn’t want pregnant women to know the toxicity of their products and possible health effects. Thanks for the good info, I wouldn’t have thought about fish oil supplements.


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