Myth: The placenta is an impermeable barrier that effectively protects the fetus from everything
Just sixty years ago doctors had pregnant women drinking champagne to deal with nausea and advised smoking to relax and help keep their weight down.
This horrible medical advice was rooted in the tragically wrong but broadly accepted theory that the placenta somehow filtered out all toxins in your blood before passing it along magically purified to the fetus. Most doctors and women have since learned the truth but lingering generational ignorance can make for some rousing arguments with your grandma.
Reality: The placenta is extremely permeable and the fetus is extremely vulnerable to the mother's diet, habits and health
Virtually everything in your bloodstream transfers across the placenta into your baby's blood - including alcohol, sugars, stress hormones, cigarette's carbon monoxide, environmental toxins and most drugs - legal and illegal.
- Too much starch, sugar & high fructose corn syrup or a pre-existing insulin-resistant state increases the risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy, and if developed later, increases your child's post-natal insulin resistance & their risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
- Smoking cigarettes throughout pregnancy increases the risk of thyroid enlargement for you and your baby (even postnatally), preeclampsia, low birth weight, postnatal asthma & allergies, milk supply problems and miscarriage
- Chronically elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) is associated with lower birth weights, and more troubling: post-natal learning and cognitive delays, behavioral, mood and mental disorders, including ADHD, schizophrenia and anxiety-related disorders.
- Environmental toxins such as the phthalates in plastic and beauty products and mercury found in seafood can cause serious birth defects as well as developmental delays, cognitive, learning and behavioral disorders.
- Too much alcohol during pregnancy causes significant and extensive brain damage during development and results in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which includes significant cognitive and developmental delays, behavioral issues as well as marked facial and cranial features.
- Untested prescription drugs taken during pregnancy. Tragically demonstrated by the Thalidomide-flipper babies born to mothers who trusted their doctor's advice and took an untested drug claiming no side effects and the women who took DES to prevent miscarriage and unwittingly gave their teenage daughters an extremely rare form of vaginal cancer.