A 2010 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics shows that some of the chemicals in perfumes and colognes have been demonstrated as harmful not only to pregnant women but to people in general. The study's biggest gripe, along with the potential harm chemicals can do, is that fragrance chemicals aren't disclosed on labels. The non-disclosure is legal according to the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients but explicitly exempts fragrance.
The study found several chemicals it says can be especially harmful to pregnant women or women who are trying to get pregnant, including hormone disruptors, which have been linked to cancer and health problems later in life for children born with the disruptors in their systems.
One particular concern for pregnant women are phthalates, which are plastic-softening chemicals used in a variety of personal-care products, including perfumes and fragrances. Studies have found that exposure to phthalates in the womb can cause behavior problems in children, especially boys, throughout their childhoods.
What's a pregnant woman to do to avoid potentially unhealthy chemicals in perfumes and fragrances? Read the labels. If one of the label ingredients is "fragrance," keep looking. The term is a catch-all for chemical fragrance compounds that make up a scent.
Keep your head out of the chemical cloud by using all-natural perfumes and fragrances. A list of more natural fragrances, along with the ones that have undisclosed chemicals in them, can be found in the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
Some natural fragrances that seem to ease nausea, rather than make it worse, include mint, lemon and ginger. Experiment with natural scents until you find the ones that blend well with your ever-shifting hormones.
- Environmental Working Group. "Not So Sexy: Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne." Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group. 2010. (August 11, 2012) http://www.ewg.org/notsosexy
- Gilbert, Avery N. and Charles J. Wysocki. "Quantitative Assessment of Olfactory Experience in During Pregnancy." Psychosomatic Medicine 53:693-700 (1991). (August 11, 2012) http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/53/6/693.full.pdf+html
- Murkoff, Heidi. "Heightened Sense of Smell." What to Expect. (August 11, 2012)http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/heightened-smell.aspx
- Nordin, Steven, Daniel A. Broman, Jonas K. Olofsson and Marianne Wulff. "A Longitudinal Descriptive Study of Self-reported Abnormal Smell and Taste Perception in Pregnant Women." Chemical Senses. 2004. (August 11, 2012)http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/29/5/391
- Stokes, Brenda. "The Pregnant Nose Knows: Dealing with Your Super Sense of Smell" Baby Zone. (August 11, 2012)http://www.babyzone.com/pregnancy/your-body-during-pregnancy/smell-pregnancy-nausea_71334
- Zerbe, Leah. "Chemicals in Cosmetics, Other Products Affect Unborn Kids" Rodale. (August 11, 2012) http://www.rodale.com/makeup-chemicals-and-pregnancy
- Zerbe, Leah. "President's Cancer Panel: Eat Organic, Avoid Plastics." Rodale. (August 11, 2012) http://www.rodale.com/presidents-cancer-panel