Pregnancy can be a time of intense germophobia. Our immune systems are compromised, so we’re more susceptible to illness. Medication is questionable, so we’re left with little recourse to soothe our symptoms or fight the infection. And of course there’s the worry of diseases that might be transferred to the fetus, whether or not it’s actually justified.
The recent flu scare has resulted in a huge increase in the popularity of antibacterial products. Sanitizing stations now stand guard at the entrance of highly trafficked institutions. Antibacterial gels and lotions are so ubiquitous that not applying them seems like an act of resistance.
But it also seems like it might be a good move for pregnant women.
A new study suggests that a common ingredient in antibacterial products— lotions, gels, soaps, toothpastes, wipes, cleaners and more may actually be dangerous to fetal development.
Triclosan is the most common anti-bacterial additive, found in a huge range of personal care and cleaning products. The chemical has been found to interfere with an enzyme controlling estrogen, potentially blocking estrogen transfer to the fetus via the placenta. “The high potency of Triclosan as an inhibitor of estrogen sulfotransferase activity raises concern about its possible effects on the ability of the placenta to supply estrogen to the fetus, and in turn on fetal growth and development.” says the study’s abstract, concluding the finding. Estrogen is crucial to fetal development, encouraging blood flow to the fetus, healthy growth of genes, and brain development.
The study examined the effects of triclosan on pregnant sheep. From the results, study leaders posit that there may be a similar effect in humans. Further research will probably be done to determine this.Triclosan has been under fire for a number of years for other not so positive effects. The chemical has been credited with the development of superbugs, or extra-resistant bacteria. It has also been found in breast milk and in babies’ bloodstreams.
Whatever you think of the uptick in antibacterial products—important defense, necessary evil, or just a marketing ploy to sell people something to solve a nonexistent problem, it seems prudent to try to find another solution during pregnancy. There are a number of herbs that can be used as antibacterial agents. BUT herbs can be dangerous in pregnancy, too. But there is one way to reduce the spread of germs that is completely uncontroversial, not problematic in pregnancy, and every bit as effective as chemical antibacterials at keeping bacteria at bay:
Wash your hands, using good old soap and water.