When Merideth Hadersbeck moved from Anaheim, California, to Las Vegas, she did so in the middle of the summer heat. Anyone who has spent time in the scorching summer desert knows just how hot and uncomfortable it can be. Yet she wanted to immediately get working in her garden and to add some greenery to her backyard. Being five months pregnant and with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit didn’t keep her from rolling up her shirt sleeves and digging in.
“I needed to add some color to our yard,” says Hadersbeck. “I worked off and on until my baby was born at the end of October. In the really hard, dry desert dirt I did a lot of digging.”
Hadersbeck made sure to take some precautions to keep herself safe, including drinking a lot of water, wearing a hat, and making sure to get the work done in the early morning or evening when the heat wasn’t as intense. Simple safety precautions like these are vital to having a healthy day working in the yard or garden while you are pregnant.
The summer heat may not be a factor yet, but precautions need to be taken even during springtime gardening. Before you plant those tulip or daffodil bulbs, read on for tips!
“Women who are pregnant and gardening need to be careful of two things: toxoplasma cysts in the soil and using chemical pesticides,” says Dr. Susan Boyd of Las Vegas OB-GYN Associates.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can be transmitted to humans through reptiles, birds, and animals, especially by cats. People can also come into contact with it through eating undercooked meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables from the garden. Because some animals may have the parasite in their feces, it’s extremely important that pregnant women not come in contact with it, whether in the garden or while changing the cat litter box. Working outside in the garden can put you in a position to come in contact with such contamination.
“The spores live in the soil and get there from animal waste products,” says Dr. Boyd. “Infection during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, fetal death, or infection to the newborn, causing illnesses that can lead to brain damage, hearing, and sight problems.”
For most people, this parasite doesn’t pose such a risk because they have been exposed to it early in life and may have immunity or no symptoms at all. Pregnant women are the ones who really have to be careful when it comes to toxoplasmosis.
11 Precautions to Take
“There’s no need to stop gardening,” says Amy Gifford, an education specialist with the National Gardening Association. “I gardened safely during my pregnancy by taking a few simple precautions.”
Some safety precautions you can take to help avoid problems include the following:
- Wear gloves, preferably the rubber-coated type, when doing any outdoor work.
- Get a nice big hat to shade your head and face, and wear a good sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
- Wash your hands thoroughly when you are done working in the garden. Be sure to not touch your eyes, face, or mouth prior to washing your hands.
- Avoid picking and eating anything right from the garden. Everything needs to be washed completely before being consumed.
- Drink a lot of water. Working outdoors in the summer can lead to dehydration, so it’s important to drink water before, during and after your gardening session.
- Take frequent breaks. This will help you avoid overworking yourself or waking up the next morning feeling sore.
- Find a position that is comfortable for you, whether it be sitting or kneeling. If something doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t continue in that position.
- Save the heavy stuff for someone else, especially any big jobs or heavy bags that need to be moved. You don’t want to do anything that will place a strain on you.
- When it comes to using chemicals in the garden, always read and follow the safety instructions, and opt for pumps over aerosols, as they create less of a vapor for inhalation.
- Do a little research prior to getting started so you can avoid working with any types of plants that may be poisonous.
- Consider watering the garden soil before starting your work to reduce the risk of being infected through inhalation of contaminated dust.
“I think it is unfortunate that the garden is often portrayed as a dangerous place to be while pregnant,” says Gifford. “I, along with countless others, have found gardening to be therapeutic. By respecting some easy-to-follow precautions, the garden can continue to be an oasis throughout pregnancy.”
Pregnancy may be the perfect opportunity for you to try organic gardening methods. In organic gardening, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are not used. Only natural methods of fertilizing plants and controlling pests are considered. Going with this option will help eliminate the risks associated with the use of chemicals that might lead to pregnancy complications.
“Pregnant or not, it’s always better to garden without the use of pesticides,” says Gifford. “I would suggest taking this opportunity to explore other, safer methods of pest control. This is an especially smart step to take in preparation for having a small child in the garden in the not-too-distant future.”
Memorialize Your Pregnancy
While spending time outdoors, you may want to get creative and find a way to memorialize your pregnancy, such as planting a tree, creating a scrapbook page of you working in the garden, planting pink and blue flowers, or getting an inscribed garden stone or bench. Use this time to enjoy the peace and quiet of working in nature. Before you know it, the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees will be joined by the beckoning of your new baby.