If You’Re Pregnant Or Trying To Get Pregnant, Does Your Green Thumb Need To Go Dormant Until After Baby Arrives?
“When you’re pregnant, a little time spent working in the garden is a great way to get outdoors in the fresh air, get some light exercise and enjoy the beauty of your garden,” said Vinnie Drzewucki, CNLP of Hicks Nurseries Inc. “But remember to keep to the less strenuous activities like raking, light pruning, deadheading spent flowers and weeding.”
While you may not need to eliminate certain activities from your daily routine there are extra precautions and modifications you should make to some of your activities in order to keep yourself and baby healthy.
“Studies show an increased rate of congenital anomalies in the babies of men and women who are exposed to pesticides, and also an increased miscarriage rate in women exposed to pesticides,” said Dr. Lauri Romanzi, Clinical Associate Professor of Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. “Women (and the men of women) who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should minimize or totally avoid exposure to pesticides.”
In addition to avoiding any pesticide exposure throughout your pregnancy (including interior pesticides) Andrew Pratt, Grounds Manager at Cleveland Botanical Garden also suggests women research the active ingredients in all products including “organic” or “natural” products.
”Avoid lawn care fertilizers and pesticides and consider switching to an organic program your health and the environment,” says Pratt.
If pests are a problem in your garden Drzewucki adds that, “Many problems are easily handled using organic, biological or cultural controls such as insecticidal soaps, or releasing ladybugs to control insects like aphids or using herbicidal soaps or mulches for weed control.”
Toxoplasma gondi is a common infection that is spread from animals to humans and can be acquired by ingesting or direct contact with raw or undercooked meat as well as exposure to soil. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant have long been advised to avoid cleaning their cat’s litter boxes, as this also puts them at risk of getting the infection.
A fetus can get infected with the virus if the mother becomes infected both during or prior to getting pregnant. Romanzi explained that while adults who get infected usually don’t have symptoms babies with the infection are at risk of visual and neurological impairment and/or mental retardation.
Most people recover from the infection with treatment, although you’ll want to check with your healthcare provider on treatment options you may need. There are a number of things you can do to help prevent toxoplasma including: wearing solid gardening gloves, shoes with socks, practicing good hand washing habits, and fully cooking your meat.
Protect your back
"Gardening can be a relaxing and therapeutic hobby when done correctly. However, it also can lead to many types of back injuries if you are not cautious,” according to Stephen Ritter, M.D., of Methodist Sports Medicine / The Orthopedic Specialists, a Clarian Health partner.
"Yard work can be considered another great form of exercise. But, with any physical activity, it's important to warm up and stretch your muscles. Take some time to walk around outside to prepare your muscles for any moving, lifting, digging or bending in the garden. “
Ritter suggests stretching your back muscles by leaning forward to carefully and touching
your toes. “For a seated back stretch, lean forward from your hips and reach for the floor and hold. A five to ten minute warm up for your back muscles will help prevent any strains or soreness later.”
Ritter adds that the most common mistake people make when working in the yard is lifting heavy objects inappropriately.
“You should bend your knees and use your legs to lift your body up. Instead of reaching forward to move a heavy object, walk over to the object and lift it straight up off the ground by bending your knees and keeping your spine in an upright position,” suggest Ritter. “This will help avoid placing strain on your spine and back muscles.”
Ritter also suggests kneeling instead of bending over for long periods of time when working in the yard. “By kneeling in the garden, you are putting much less strain on your back and spine. If necessary, use knee pads to protect your knees from dirt or soreness.”
Using long handed tools will help you maintain a proper postures and Ritter suggests placing a shovel directly in front of you and parallel to your hip bones if you are doing any digging.
“Don't overdo it: Gardening can cause back pain and overuse injuries,” says Ritter. “For example, after 15 minutes of raking, change to pruning or mowing your lawn. You should also avoid all-day marathon gardening sessions. Space out your gardening tasks over the course of several days.”
Chiropractor Dr. Greg Werner, www.gregwerner.com, suggests limiting the time you spending gardening and standing up and walking around between plantings as well as using a gardening bucket or bench to sit on when planting or pulling weeds.
“Use proper gardening tools when planting: using only your arms will put undo pressure on your wrists,” adds Werner. “When you are pregnant you are more prone to overuse syndromes such as carpal tunnel or tennis elbow.”
“Do your gardening a little at a time instead of trying to knock it all out in one try, and if you’re just trying to spruce up your yard and you are far along in your pregnancy (third trimester) have your husband/partner do it.”
Debbie Mandel, MA, author of “Addicted to Stress,” says there are things you can do to make gardening a “moving meditation, instead of a toxic experience.”
“Protect yourself from searing sun with sun block, a hat and loose clothing,” says Mandel. “Even better avoid gardening midday.”
“Melasma (aka Chloasma) is a hyper pigmentation condition that affects 50-70% of pregnant women, most commonly appearing on the forehead, cheeks and chin,” says Dr. Romanzi. “While it can be treated post-partum with bleaching agents, laser, chemical peels and topical agents such as tretionoin(Retin-A) it can also be prevented by the liberal and regular use of SPF-50 UVA-PF 28 sunscreen (2007 study University Teaching Hospital IbnRochd in Casablanca, Morocco) . Pregnant women who want to prevent hypermelanotic changes in their skin should regularly use adequate sunscreen and sunhats outdoors.”
Mandel adds that women should, “Drink plenty of water as gardeners tend to get immersed in what they are doing and forget about hydrating.” And suggests avoiding gardening during the times mosquitoes in your area fee - generally 6-8am and pm.”