What you should know
about avoidable risks of
Every day, pregnant women are exposed
to toxic substances that can be
harmful to their babies. Potential
effects include physical defects,
learning disabilities, and
This pamphlet suggests
some easy things you can
do to protect your
Tips marked with this symbol are steps
you can take to help protect your baby’s
What are the most important steps I can take
to help ensure a healthy baby at birth?
See a medical doctor or midwife before becoming
pregnant, or as soon as you think you are pregnant.
Get regular checkups and follow their advice.
Eat a healthy diet. Make sure that you are getting
proper amounts of vitamins, especially folic acid. If you
are between 12 and 50 years old, you should eat 400
micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. This can
prevent problems of the spine. All adult multivitamins
have at least 400 mcg of folic acid. Fortified foods also
contain folic acid.
Try to avoid or minimize your exposure to hazardous
What is exposure?
Exposure means coming into contact with a hazardous
substance. Depending on the substance and the
amount you are exposed to, an exposure can be toxic.
There are many ways that we are exposed to toxic
substances in our everyday lives, at work and at home.
Alcohol and tobacco smoke contain a variety of toxic
chemicals. We may breathe other chemicals in house-
hold products like paints, glues, and cleaners, or
absorb them through our skin. Environmental
pollutants can contaminate drinking water and foods,
especially those high in animal fats.
If you are exposed to a toxic substance while pregnant,
your baby is also exposed.
Can a developing baby be injured by very
small quantities of hazardous substances that
have no obvious effect on the mother?
As a healthy adult, you may note the smell of the
baby’s freshly painted room, or the products used to
refinish the furniture, but it