By Ulysses Torassa
As a physician, Tamar,* of Denver, Colorado, knew to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes during pregnancy. But upon learning she was pregnant for the first time, the normally laid-back doctor suddenly felt anxious about her everyday surroundings. Spooked by headlines linking birth defects to everything from smoggy air to microwave ovens, she felt guilty drinking tap water and avoided household chores out of fear that cleaning products would harm her fetus.
"On the one hand you feel so blessed," she said. "But at the same time, you look around and you worry -- is it safe?" Protective instincts naturally kick in when you're pregnant, and every mother-to-be wants to ensure her baby is as healthy as possible. But where is the line between prudent caution and paranoia? How far should you go to avoid risks of problems and complications, in light of media reports that raise questions about hazards in our everyday environment?
Experts in teratology (the study of abnormalities in physiological development) say protecting your unborn baby needn’t mean turning your life upside down. In fact, they say, getting too stressed-out about tiny, theoretical risks isn't healthy.