Lead is a heavy metal that, in high concentrations, can affect your baby. Lead is most often found in old paints, pottery, and imported toys.
Lead is mostly absorbed into your body through your lungs and gastrointestinal tract and it can stay in your body for many years, stored mostly in your bones.
High levels of lead are dangerous for your baby. Early in a pregnancy, it can cause miscarriages, while later on it can cause preterm labor, poor fetal growth, and stillbirths. Babies who are exposed to high levels of lead while in the uterus will also often have learning and behavior problems later in life. Lead has, however, not been shown to cause any birth defects.
Maternal lead can often cross into the fetal circulation by the end of the first trimester. The lead level is the same in the fetus as in the mother.
If you are concerned about your lead levels due to dietary or environmental reasons, ask to have a blood test to look at your lead level. Many authorities state that you should have a level of no more than 10 micrograms per deciliter. Ask your health care provider about what level is safe for you.
During pregnancy it is important to minimize your lead exposure and especially avoid contact with old paint, one of the major sources of lead. If your home was built before 1978 check the paint of your walls for lead. Lead testing kits can be bought in most local hardware stores. If you have a job where there is high lead exposure, make efforts to minimize your lead exposure.
Some researchers have found that a diet poor in calcium, iron, and zinc can be associated with increased lead absorption. It is important for pregnant women to eat a well-balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins.