Pregnancy and air pollution in Metro Manila: A guide for moms-to-be

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Protect yourself and your unborn baby from the ill effects of air pollution in the city by practicing these simple habits

Living in a bustling city as a pregnant mom has its perks: Hospitals are easily accessible and many stores and restaurants are open 24/7. But it also has its downside: traffic is horrible, which can cause stress. Previous studies have shown that this isn't good for your growing baby. Another disadvantage of living in a big city is the quality of air we breathe.

Air pollution in Metro Manila has only gotten worse over the years. It has long exceeded a tolerable level. Data from 2015 shows that the air quality in Metro Manila has gotten progressively worse, especially in heavily congested areas. The top culprit of air pollution? The smoke vehicles emit on the road.

As of 2016, however, Metro Manila air quality has slightly improved, based on a recent study by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Still, it is a cause for concern, specifically for moms-to-be who live in densely populated parts of the metro.

What are the risks of being exposed to polluted air while pregnant?

Polluted air has the following components: nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, vehicle exhaust, ozone, particulate matter, building emissions, second-hand smoke, dust, and other chemicals.

Studies have found that even minimal exposure to air pollution increases the risk of long term health problems in babies. What's more, being exposed to polluted air while pregnant makes low birth weight and premature births more likely.

photo: dreamstime

What are the symptoms of prolonged exposure to polluted air?

Those exposed to polluted air for a long period of time may develop the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Eye irritation
  • Sinus problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Lung and heart damage
  • Cancer
  • Advanced respiratory conditions (asthma, bronchitis, emphysema)

How can moms-to-be protect themselves and their babies from air pollution?

If you're living in Metro Manila and want to get away from polluted air, moving to the province is not advised because air pollution is present there as well, though in limited amounts. The best way is to just limit your exposure to polluted air as much as possible. Here are some tips you can try.

Invest in an air purifier

Though a bit pricey, these convenient devices work by ridding the air of allergens, mold, and germs, helping make your home environment conducive to a healthy pregnancy.

Be extra careful outdoors

Take special caution when heading outdoors! This means wearing a mask and being careful not to walk or jog in areas near heavy traffic.

Stay indoors as much as possible

Air pollution tends to be worse in the afternoon, so try to stay indoors at this time. When you do need to go out, try not to commute as much as possible, take a taxi or other ride hailing services.

Be protective of your home's air quality

Each time you cook, for instance, you pave the way for contaminants to enter your home. Make sure to regularly check potential sources of air irritants, like your ventilation system. Have someone check for mold around the house as well as your kitchen's carbon monoxide levels.

sources: CNN, Family Education, Baby Your Baby

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