| 16°C Dublin

Mums-to-be told to avoid shower gels

PREGNANT women are being advised to avoid chemicals in household products, such as food packaging, cosmetics and family medicines that could harm their unborn babies.

The UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says women should be made aware of the sources of chemicals to minimise the possibility of harm during pregnancy, and urges them to play safe.

But the advice has provoked concern, with critics saying the report is alarmist and can add to a mother's stress.

The RCOG says there is no official antenatal advice for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding about the potential risks exposure to some chemicals could pose.

A report acknowledges that, while there is little evidence to suggest whether such chemicals do affect a baby's development, or even if there is a risk to health, they advise women to assume that a risk is present.

Women can be exposed to hundreds of chemicals at low levels, through food packaging, household products, over-the-counter medicines and cosmetics, the report says.


It advises women to take care when handling products such as moisturisers, sunscreens and shower gels, as regulations do not require manufacturers to name all potentially harmful chemicals on the product label.

Dr Michelle Bellingham of the University of Glasgow, co-author of the paper, said: "While there is no official advice on this topic, there is much conflicting anecdotal evidence about environmental chemicals and their potentially adverse effects on developing babies.

"The information in this report is aimed at addressing this problem and should be conveyed routinely in infertility and antenatal clinics."

But Tracey Brown, from Sense About Science, said the warning could cause more harm than good.

She said: "As the report itself shows, there are many unfounded rumours about links between particular substances and pregnancy outcomes.

"But we have plenty of evidence that stress is a major risk factor in pregnancy. Research-ers and professional bodies should not be adding to it."