When you’re pregnant, especially for the first time, it’s easy to start questioning the safety of just about anything you normally would do. You’re developing valuable new life inside of you, and it’s normal to wonder whether or not you’re participating in an activity that could be potentially harmful to them (or to yourself). Even something as innocent as gardening while pregnant can start to seem like a safety hazard to your unborn baby if you fall into an internet search hole. If you are concerned about the safety of gardening while pregnant and the potential risk of toxoplasmosis, you should feel safe to ask your health care provider for specific advice at any time. But, in the meantime, here’s what the experts want every pregnant woman to know about gardening while pregnant.
Is it safe to garden while pregnant?
As long as you’re comfortable getting on all fours to pull weeds, dig holes, and water your baby plants, you can absolutely continue gardening while you’re pregnant. In fact, gardening while pregnant can be a great way to keep your body moving. “At the end of the day, you can garden all day, if you’re up for it,” Dr. Anna Cabecaa triple-certified OB-GYN and author, assures us.
Although Cabeca insists that gardening during pregnancy is perfectly safe for most people, she recommends wearing gloves and washing your hands frequently. “Soil can contain parasites like salmonella or listeria, so just be aware and watchful,” she says. Basically, gardening carries the same risk for a pregnant person as eating some of your favorite foods. Safety makes a difference, so just be sure to keep your hands clean – good advice for everyone, at all times.
Can you catch toxoplasmosis while gardening?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a common parasite that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system. The greatest risk comes from eating undercooked meat or shellfish, but the parasite can also be accidentally ingested if you come into contact with cat feces – for example, when cleaning your cat’s litter box, coming into contact with the parasite without knowing it and not washing your hands.
Because toxoplasmosis can be contracted through cat feces, it’s a risk to keep in mind if you’re hoping to garden while pregnant. If cats go to the toilet in or around your yard, there is always the possibility of unknowingly touching the feces and coming into contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. “There is no doubt that gardening increases the risk of exposure to toxoplasmosis,” says Cabeca. “That being said, self-care is important, especially during pregnancy, so if gardening is ‘your thing’ then you can do it. I recommend that you wear gloves, wear a mask and make sure you wash your hands well, and don’t touch your face, mouth or eyes until you’ve done so.
You can pass toxoplasmosis to your baby during pregnancy, depending on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if you have no symptoms of the infection, babies can develop severe symptoms later in life. This can include blindness, mental disability, or severe eye or brain damage at birth. But don’t put away those seed packets just yet. If you take the precautions recommended by Cabeca, you should still be able to garden safely.
Can I pull weeds during pregnancy?
Pulling weeds is a big part of gardening, and Dr. Cabeca says doing it with your gloved hands is perfectly fine. That said, you should avoid certain pesticides that could end up in weed killers. Exposure to pesticides can increase your chances of having a miscarriage, a baby with birth defects, or other problems, and some can even pass into breast milk.
To avoid exposure to pesticides during pregnancy, the CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid applying pesticides directly in the garden. If you are going to use them in your garden, have someone else do it. If you know that pesticides are being used in your garden, you should always make sure to wear gloves and protective clothing when gardening so they don’t get on your hands. And if pesticides have been applied to your lawn or garden area very recently, you should avoid the area for as long as the pesticide label tells you to wait.
Most weeds are harmless to pull during pregnancy. However, if you see a completely unfamiliar plant or weed that worries you, be sure to identify what it is before touching it.
What if I catch poison ivy during pregnancy?
Although poison ivy can be quite uncomfortable, it’s not a big deal to have it during pregnancy. If you notice a telltale rash – usually red with itchy bumps – you should contact your healthcare provider for advice on what you can take to treat the rash.
“Generally, taking medications during pregnancy can be tricky and should be done carefully and with the help of your OB-GYN,” says Dr. Cabeca. “That being said, there are many natural home remedies for poison ivy that are completely safe.” Dr. Cabeca recommends applying cold compresses to the infected areas for an immediate feeling of itch relief.
Seek immediate care if you experience a rash along with any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- A rash around the eyes, mouth, or genitals
- swelling on your face
- Itching that prevents you from sleeping
- Rashes over most of your body
- A fever
With all of these caveats in mind, at the end of the day, you should feel free to garden while pregnant. Not only can this be a good way to keep your body moving, but many people find it relaxing and reduces stress. Just be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly, and you and your baby should be fine.
Dr. Anna CabecaTriple Certified OB-GYN and Author