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Pregnant women 'should avoid ready meals, shower gel and new cars'

The guidance from a group of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the UK has been widely criticised.

Image: Pregnant woman via Shutterstock

THERE HAS BEEN criticism of a group of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the UK who warned yesterday that pregnant women may want avoid common household products that contain potentially harmful chemicals.

Experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) warned in a new Scientific Impact Paper launched yesterday that there is not enough information about the chemical risk from certain household products.

Items that the paper suggested – rather than advised – should be avoided included tinned foods, paint, non-stick frying pans, ready meals, shower gel and new cars.

The researchers said that exposure to “considerable amounts of environmental chemicals” has been linked to adverse health effects in women but were not specific on the exact amount of risk from certain products.

Risks they identified include pre-term birth, low birthweight, congenital defects, pregnancy loss, impaired immune development, as well as impairment of fertility and reproduction in both the mother and child in later life.

Dr Michelle Bellingham, a co-author of the paper, said that the research is about addressing the conflicting anecdotal evidence about what chemicals can be harmful.

Her colleague, Professor Richard Sharpe, another co-author, added: “For most environmental chemicals we do not know whether or not they really affect a baby’s development, and obtaining definitive guidance will take many years.”

The advice on products to avoid has been criticised by a number of groups with Tracey Brown from Sense about Science saying that the advice was not helpful, telling the BBC: “What we need is help in navigating these debates about chemicals and pregnancy. Disappointingly, the RCOG report has ducked this.”

National Childbirth Trust’s Rosemary Dodds said that pregnant women today were still having to make decisions without clear information on possible risk and said this is unacceptable.

Writing in The Guardian, author and biomedical reporter Linda Geddes described the guidance as “utterly impracticable”.

Read: 1980s ‘crack baby’ scare overblown

Read: Iodine deficiency during pregnancy could adversely affect children’s mental development

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Hugh O'Connell

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