CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Gardening During Pregnancy

 By: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

Due to my current state, I have done a lot of research this year on the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy. While looking at a long list of don’ts one day this spring, I saw something I never considered and did not want to see, pregnant women shouldn’t garden!? That was not good news. However, being someone who loves to see the research, I decided to dig deeper and look into some papers on the matter. Here’s what I found out…
One of the big risks to pregnant women in the garden is Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a protozoan often found in soils and cat feces. 90% of all people who would become infected with the protozoan would experience no symptoms at all. The other 10% might experience things like fever and headaches. It’s not a huge deal for an adult, but can be very damaging to a fetus. Studies have shown that this infection passed on to a fetus can cause things like miscarriage, mental retardation, microcephaly, and seizures for the little one, scary stuff.
This is toxoplasmosis under a microscope
In order to contract this disease from your garden soil, a couple of things would have to happen. First of all, the protozoan would have to be present in the soil, most likely through an outdoor, hunting cat defecating there. Even if there is no visual evidence of cat feces in the soil, the protozoan remains infective for up to a year. Second, the gardening mom to be with a contaminated hand would have to touch said hand to her mouth for the protozoan to enter her system. Studies have found that religiously wearing gloves while gardening, and thoroughly washing hands after contact with soil greatly reduces the risk of contracting the disease. You can also become infected by consuming unwashed garden produce, so be sure you have those veggie scrubbers handy!
So cute...and potentially full of toxoplasmosis
Another concern that might come up for a pregnant gardener is exposure to pesticides in the garden. The risk really depends on which pesticide we’re talking about and how much exposure you’ve had to it. A baby’s developing brain, nervous system, and organs can be very sensitive to exposure to pesticides, so it is a good idea to minimize exposure as much as possible. Everyone, but especially expectant mothers, should use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to eliminate garden pests in the least hazardous manner. There is usually always a cultural or biological control method that does not involve using chemicals. If pesticides must be used, it is best if someone else can apply them. Find the least toxic option for your problem and be sure to wear gloves, clothing that covers your skin, and potentially a mask when working in an area where pesticides were used.
Stay away Mama!
So it seems to me with a little forethought and caution, moms to be can still enjoy working in the garden. A little sunshine and activity will be good for you and baby, just take precautions to keep your bundle of joy safe and sound.

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