SafetyNEST: safeguarding your baby during your pregnancy

Alexandra Destler


Four million babies are born each year in the United States yet women are not receiving important safety information from their obstetricians about exposure to toxic chemicals as part of their prenatal education. Research from UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment shows that OBS lack the tools to discuss toxic exposures with pregnant patients and aren’t counseling pregnant women on toxic chemical risks. OBs are missing a ripe opportunity when women are poised to make important changes in their lifestyle and behavior for the health of their pregnancy and baby.


A growing body of research shows that many reproductive and health problems are caused by exposure to chemicals that are widely dispersed in our environment and with which we come into contact on a daily basis. These problems include miscarriage, preterm birth, abnormal fetal development, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, and childhood cancers. Phthalates, Bisphenol, flame retardants, and pesticides are among the chemicals of concern due to increasing evidence of widespread exposures and potential health risks, particularly during vulnerable periods of development.  Unlike pharmaceuticals, and because of deficiencies in the current regulatory structure, most environmental chemicals have entered the marketplace without comprehensive information regarding their impact on human reproductive health. Mount Sinai Hospital estimates the cost of environmentally-induced childhood disease at $76.6 billion per year.


SafetyNEST interviewed pregnant women to gauge their primary health concerns, whom they trust for health information, and where they access information.  Results revealed that all pregnant women have some level of concern about toxics–whether related to medicine, cleaning products, sunscreens, or food. All women expressed a high level of trust in either their doula/midwife or OB. Yet, women are not receiving information from these trusted sources about toxics – and don’t know where to access this information online. Health providers expressed interest in having a highly credible and easily digestible resources they could use as well as an App or website they can offer their patients.


This research led to several conclusions: Health providers are critically positioned to intervene and reduce expectant women’s exposure to toxic chemicals. These two customers need credible content that is easy to access, relevant to one’s pregnancy and presented in a way that is engaging and helpful, not scary or overwhelming given the content matter.


With UCSF and Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, SafetyNEST is developing mobile content for health providers about toxic chemicals. For pregnant women, we’re creating a mobile health App which functions as a virtual home simulation – allowing expectant women to learn about toxic chemicals and safely prepare for baby. The App is reinforced by social media and a website and is distributed though health providers as well as NGO partners.


Alexandra Destler will discuss recognizing an opportunity to support improved health outcomes that is not yet being addressed by health providers or NGOs. She’ll also describe selecting technology and identifying product requirements to meet the market needs nationally as well as globally, as pilot sites now exist in California, New York and Brazil.




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