Of Perfumes and Penises

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According to the American Pregnancy Association it is perfectly safe to use perfumes and fragrances as much as you want while you’re pregnant.

Perfume

HOWEVER (and you knew there’d be a however), some studies indicate that there is a risk, and that risk is higher for the future baby boys.¬† More specifically, for their penises.¬† ūüė¶

From above website:

“Hypospadias is one of the most common genital deformities affecting baby boys. About 1 out of 300 infants in the US are born with the condition in which the opening of the urethra occurs on the underside of the penis rather than the tip. Surgery can correct the problem.”

Don’t know about you but penis surgery is not high on my list of sensorially enriching experiences I want my infant to partake in.

Now there’s no concrete link between a mom wearing perfume or hairspray (or any potentially-toxic-chemical-laden personal care products) and her son having a deformed penis.¬† [Googles images of hypospadia and decides NOT to include a link for fear of losing all of my two readers.¬† Finds this instead:]

Sad Mushroom

HOWEVER (again),¬†and this is the scary part, the incidence of hypospadia has been increasing steadily in the U.S.¬†¬†Today, 1 in 125 boys is born with it.¬†¬†Those¬†are certainly not odds I’d scoff at.¬† And the thing is, no one knows what the cause is.

Besides the deformed penis consideration, there are other potential negative effects of endocrine-disruptors on fetuses, including behavioral problems three years later.  [Note: the behavior of 3-year-olds WITHOUT behavioral problems is, shall we say, enough of a challenge for most parents.]

So basically, we have the official position: Perfumes and products containing phtalates are PERFECTLY SAFE, go ahead, spray ’em on, shower in them, breathe them in!

Next official position: Hypospadias?¬† Increasing, yes…¬† Nope, no clue why!¬†

Meanwhile, less official sources¬†(you know, those that have “natural” in their titles and such) abound with research showing that exposure to phtalates while in utero directly causes little monster penises to grow.

So what is a reasonable person to make of this conflicting information?

As in the case of ultrasounds, I say weigh the pros and cons.¬† Pros of wearing chemical-laden personal care products: you keep using the same products you’ve been using to achieve your desired¬†scent and look.¬† Cons: you might be¬†screwing with your son’s package.

To me, it’s a no-brainer:¬†throw the¬†crap out.¬† Switch to¬†products¬†that definitely don’t¬†contain harmful chemicals.¬† You’re not sacrificing your cool up-do or your sweet rosy parfum.¬† You’re just getting them from Whole Foods instead of CVS.¬† (Gross generalization, but you get my point.)

This article ¬†from The Bump explains how to avoid the bad stuff in personal care products, and more.¬† Now, a word of warning: reading about all the dangerous crap all over the place can be kind of stressful and lead to a sense of powerlessness.¬† It is true that we can’t possibly avoid all toxins, unless we move to, umm… some other planet?¬† No place on Earth is totally “clean” anymore.¬† So some may conclude that since it’s impossible to avoid poisons entering our bodies, we shouldn’t worry about it.¬† I agree with not worrying, but that doesn’t mean¬†we should actively put more crap in our bodies when there are safe alternatives.¬† I mean to me there’s a big difference between continuing to breathe air that may be contaminated in some way¬†by household paints, and slathering¬†phtalates and parabens¬†directly into your skin and hair, rubbing the stuff into your pores.¬† You can’t stop breathing.¬† You can stop Channel #5-ing.

Best thing is that it doesn’t have to cost you much at all.¬† Here are my favorite products.¬† Cheap, safe, effective.

Extra Virgin Organic Coconut oil.¬† Use all over, for pretty much ANYTHING from Athlete’s Foot to lubricant (you don’t have to advertise either of these two particular uses, BTW).¬† This website describes the amazing properties of EVCO and lists 160 (!!) uses.¬† I use it every day as a moisturizer and makeup remover, at the very least. (Surprisingly, it doesn’t make facial skin oily – actually helps skin regulate its oil production!)

Baking Soda: you can wash your hair with it quite effectively.  This practice is, weirdly, known as No-Poo.  I also use baking soda mixed with coconut oil as a very pleasant and gentle facial scrub.  Other uses include oral care and general household cleaning.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with “the Mother”.¬† WTF is “the Mother”?¬† It took me over a year to figure that out.¬† I read about ACV with “the Mother” on crunchy websites and thought it must be some advertising gimmick – a picture of¬†maternal-looking chick¬†on the bottle of vinegar or something.¬† As it turns out, “the Mother” is actually something in the vinegar.¬† It’s the culture – yeast or bacteria,¬†probbly¬†– that grows in vinegar that has not been pasteurized.¬† And that’s a good thing – refer to my post about our¬†bacteria buddies.¬† Anyways.¬† ACV can be used as a hair rinse – restores Ph levels to your hair after washing; or as an astringent; or for a great many other things such as to clean your dentures and get rid of your partner’s dandruff, for example.¬† When I was in my third trimester, I drank it, diluted in a glass of water, to help with heartburn on a daily basis.

Those are the big three.¬† With them you can pretty much take care of your skin, your hair, your house, your sex life, and more.¬† Add in a few essential oils like Tea Tree Oil or a flower essence, and you’re golden.

Happy Mushroom

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Ultra-Sounds: Ultra Safe?

Surely you’ve seen the pics on Facebook of your friends’ adorable fetuses.¬† Ok, not really adorable, let’s be honest here, they look weird crosses between the non-Arnold Terminator and the alien from Alien. But, to their parents at least, those first pictures of Junior couldn’t be more precious.

It seems so routine: of course you’ll have an ultrasound, everyone does, why the hell wouldn’t you?¬† Well, no one talks about why you wouldn’t, so I am going to do just that.¬† You don’t need to hear the pro’s; you may want to ponder the con’s a bit.

The main con: we just don’t know that much about the risks and possible negative effects of ultrasounds.¬† After all, they’re pretty new in the grand scheme of things, and fetuses aren’t that communicative – how would they tell us if something hurt or bothered them?¬† Squirm is about the only thing they could do (which, actually, seems to happen a lot during ultrasounds).

The official, mainstream line is that ultrasounds carry zero risks.  However there is good reason to doubt this.

This article very thoroughly describes the evidence that repeat ultrasounds may very well be a cause of permanent, long-term harm to the fetus.¬† Basically, studies showing that ultrasounds are safe took place with equipment made before 1992, which had much lower output levels (six to eight times lower that today’s).¬† These days, we use new equipment, and no large studies have been conducted with this new equipment.¬† That’s reason enough for pause, if you ask me.¬† The article describes a few small studies the results of which suggest ultrasounds carry serious risks to the fetus: “Single or small studies on humans exposed to ultrasound have shown that possible adverse effects include premature ovulation, preterm labor or miscarriage, low birth weight, poorer condition at birth, perinatal death, dyslexia, delayed speech development, and less right-handedness.”¬† Many other studies, however, have indicated that there are no risks.¬† Bottom line: we need new studies.¬† Until we have them, we can’t be sure ultrasounds are safe.

In this article from Midwifery Today – a great resource, BTW – a possible link between the increase in prenatal ultrasound and autism is suggested.¬† Of note: “The research, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, also implicated ultrasound in neurodevelopmental problems in children, such as dyslexia, epilepsy, mental retardation and schizophrenia, and showed that damage to brain cells increased with longer exposures.”

Let me be clear: there is no proven link between ultrasounds and any illness, disease, or defect.¬† But there is no proof that ultrasounds are safe, either.¬† Given that there is¬†no medical benefit to repeat ultrasounds in the vast majority of cases, why have them, once you¬†are informed of¬†the facts (or lack thereof)?¬† Just so you can visually confirm that, yep, the little Alien¬†is still there?¬† It just doesn’t make sense.

My two cents is that if you really want to know gender (though there are lots of reasons NOT to… topic of a future post), then get the one¬†ultrasound.¬†¬†After that,¬†don’t get any more unless medically indicated.¬† If offered the ultrasound at a routine exam, simply say you’d rather not.¬† If¬†someone has a problem with that, they’d better have a good reason — one that doesn’t include paying¬†for the ultrasound equipment and the¬†technician’s salary.