Pregnancy and plenty of pure, uncontaminated water are two things that should go hand in hand. The reason is obvious; you are drinking for two. And for you and your baby to stay fit and healthy, 2 liters of daily water is a must. 3 if you engage in physical activities.
You see, if you take sufficient water, issues like morning sickness, constipation, headaches, fatigue, and a possible miscarriage will all stay at bay.
But the big Q is: Are all waters safe for drinking? Or rather, which is the best water to drink while pregnant? I know you are probably thinking of the crystal-clear water flowing in that kitchen faucet. Is it safe? A big NO. Why? It may contain a variety of contaminants such as fluoride and lead which, according to sciencemag, lower the IQ of the baby.
So that’s it, I can’t drink tap water? You can drink it but only when you are sure it’s safe. Read on to get the full details.
Is tap water safe?
When we need to quench our thirst real quick and there is no time to boil the water or rush to a grocery store for bottled water, drinking from the tap is the easiest alternative. And why not drink it anyway? After all, it looks clean and comes from a safe source. Actually, most cities test the water for viruses, treat it, disinfect it, and filter it before releasing it for consumption.
But, owing to aged and leaking pipes, harmful pollutants like lead and copper find their way in. On the same note, many cities have been found to violate the water code, exposing many people to health risks. This is according to a 2018 study that indicates that 45 million Americans consume whose sources are questionable. This only means that tap water is unsafe for anyone and potentially dangerous for expectant mothers. Another study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says that tap water could contain 316 contaminants.
Probable contaminants in your tap water
Fluoride- According to a research by ScienceMag, 2/3 of Americans have fluoridated water flowing in their taps. The logic behind this is to control diseases, strengthen teeth and prevent common teeth complications. While fluoride has proved to be effective in improving teeth, it has turned out to be a harmful contaminant as well. Children, particularly boys, born of mothers who consumed fluoridated water, have been observed to have a low IQ. The researchers are still trying to figure out why this affects only boys.
Lead- Lead is toxic and harmful to your health, and the baby’s even in low amounts. Its major source is corrosion of pipes, worn-out paint, erosion of natural deposits, and leaks. The more acidic the water, the higher the leaching of lead. And worse if the pipes are old. Exposure to lead during pregnancy affects the baby in the following ways:
- A lower IQ
- Low cognitive function
- Learning problems
- Stunted growth
- Premature birth
Manganese- Manganese is a metal contaminant that makes it to your piped water through leaches from rocks and soil. This metal does not only affect pregnant mothers and children but also causes loss of memory and poor attention in adults. In children, it is linked to:
- A lower IQ
- Learning difficulties
- Verbal disorders
- Poor behavioral performance
Arsenic- This is another metal pollutant that results from earth natural deposits, industrial pollution, and agricultural chemicals. Its health effects include miscarriages and premature birth.
Bacteria and microorganisms- Expectant mothers have vulnerable immune systems. These contaminants can lead to stomach diseases such as vomiting and diarrhea. They can find their way to the city water reservoir or to the local borehole through sewage or animal waste.
Chlorine- Chlorine and other disinfectants are used to kill bacteria and microorganisms found in tap water. When they react with the natural organic matter found in water, they form chloroform, a highly toxic contaminant that has adverse health effects. Chloroform has been linked to the following complications on children:
- Birth defects like low weight
- Heart problems
- Cleft palates
- Cognitive problems
- Asthmatic attacks
Mothers are under the risk of miscarriages. However, health experts agree that the evidence is not so ample, and further research needs to be done.
Pesticides- They are used by most farmers to control weeds and contain nitrate and atrazine. They might contaminate your tap water through runoffs and are attributed to slowed fetal growth. They might also cause methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder where too little oxygen is delivered to the child’s blood cells.
Industrial chemicals- They contaminate tap water through industrial waste runoff. Exposure to these chemicals may lead to pregnancy-related complications and even miscarriages.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you should not drink tap water. What’s important is ensuring that the water is safe.
How do you know your tap water is safe?
The water running in our taps mostly comes from public water reservoirs. So, you can rest assured that the water has been treated, and the chances of it being unsafe are very low. You can always contact your local water supplier or health department in case the water tastes strange or if you have any suspicions. Always pay attention to alerts by the supplier. In the case of leaks or breakdowns, they will always inform you. When they cut out supply for maintenance, contamination is highly likely to happen. So you might wanna boil the water before drinking.
But you can always test the water for reassurance and extra safety. Testing water for contaminants, thanks to available test kits, is a 5-minute process, and even in low concentrations, these kits don’t miss a single detail. Depending on your budget and the levels of accuracy you are aiming, you can use 3 types of testing kits:
Test strips: Did you take chemistry classes? Remember how litmus papers worked? Test strips use a similar mechanism. They are small one-time use strips that are dipped or held against a stream of water and change color to indicate the presence of a contaminant. To determine the concentration of the impurity, you compare the color with the colors chart. Test strips are cheap and less accurate if you don’t follow instructions carefully. They can be used to test for nitrate, lead, iron, manganese, chlorine, and other metal contaminants.
Colour disk kits: Colour disk kits are more accurate and reliable. You put the water to be tested in a reusable plastic tube then add powder or a liquid reagent. The color changes if any contaminants exist. To know the concentration of the pollutant, you are required to place the plastic tube in a viewing box, where there is a plastic disk printed with a color gradient. You then rotate the disk to find the color that matches the color of the test sample. Color test kits can be used to test for like any contaminant but are more expensive and have prescribed waiting times.
Hand-held digital instruments- They are the most effective and accurate. They can be portable water meters, photometers, or calorimeters. However, they are more expensive and delicate as well. They require calibration and run on batteries.
So, what do you do if you find your water contaminated? You can make it safe.
How to make your water safe
There are many ways of purifying water and making it safe for drinking. Boiling always does the trick, but the most effective method is installing a whole house water filter. The system was invented to filter or get rid of any contaminants in the water. It does all the hard work for you and ensures that the water you’re drinking, cooking with, or washing utensils with is free of any harmful substances.
But if for any reason, you can’t install a water filter, you can opt for bottled water, which is actually the safest for mothers-to-be. Also known as mineral water, this water is not only safe but also contains minerals such as sulphur, magnesium and calcium which are good for you and your baby. People also say that mineral water has good taste, which is another reason you should drink it.
The last thing you want is a miscarriage or a baby with a low IQ or verbal disorders. It’s rather sad that this has happened to many people simply because they didn’t know. Be conscious of the water you take in. Make sure it is clean and safe.
The best water to drink while pregnant is filtered water, bottled water and boiled or distilled water.