Responses to RCOG Statement on Dealing with Chemicals during Pregnancy

Karin Gunther Russ
Coordinator of the Fertility and Reproductive Health Working Group

Recently, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published the Scientific Impact Paper No. 37 entitled “Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy: Dealing with Potential, but Unproven, Risks to Child Health.” The paper describes environmental hazards to which pregnant women are routinely exposed, and offers guidance on reducing exposures to harmful chemicals. As the accompanying press release explains “The paper recommends that the best approach for pregnant women is a ‘safety first’ approach, which is to assume there is risk present even when it may be minimal or eventually unfounded.”

Public and scientific response to the paper has been quite varied, with some calling the recommendations extreme and likely to cause undue anxiety in expectant mothers. Others have hailed the recommendations as long overdue. On the CHE Fertility and Reproductive Health working group listserv, a vibrant discussion of the paper took place. Please see the official comments from leading CHE partners below. What are your thoughts on the recommendations for pregnant women?

“It is wise to begin with a precautionary principle, to caution women that it is in the best interest of their health and the health of their families to be aware and cautious of exposures to a variety of chemicals in the environment.”

Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, FACOG
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc
American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Read the full letter from ACOG and ASRM.

The status quo for a long time has been for health care providers, in the face of uncertainty, to say very little to their patients about potentially harmful exposures during pregnancy. This unfortunately has created a culture where all kinds of exposures have been assumed safe. This report at the very least acknowledges that women should not be so reassured, and should take precautionary steps until we know more.

Alexandra Scranton
Director of Science and Research
Women’s Voices for the Earth

Read the full WVE response.