Pregnant? 3 Reasons to Test Well Water Now
Contaminated water can be harmful to anyone, but it’s especially dangerous for expectant mothers and babies. If you’re pregnant or a new mom, there are three very good reasons to have your well water tested now:
1. Check for bacteria.
Coliform bacteria are a family of different types of bacteria. Some exist naturally in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, and others are present in soils and water sources such as lakes, ponds and rivers.
Coliform bacteria cause a wide range of illnesses and symptoms vary, but diarrhea, abdominal cramps and/or nausea indicate the possibility of bacterial contamination. While any one of these conditions causes pain, distress and the risk of dehydration in infants, the presence of E. coli can lead to kidney damage and in some cases death.
2. Assess nitrate levels.
Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds found in soil, air, water and plants. Plant decomposition, animal wastes and fertilizers are common sources of nitrates in soil and groundwater. Most adults can consume large amounts with no ill effects, but nitrates are toxic to children less than a year old and potentially harmful to you and your developing fetus.
Nitrates reduce oxygen levels in the blood and high levels can lead to blue baby syndrome, a condition characterized by a bluish skin tint particularly around the eyes and mouth. If it’s not spotted and treated immediately, this condition can be fatal.
Pregnant women often develop reduced blood oxygen levels around the 30th week of pregnancy, and high nitrate levels can magnify these effects. Once the baby is born, levels typically return to normal, but nitrates in your well water can delay this process. There’s no evidence nitrates in breastmilk affects infants, but it’s important to remember if you boil water for formula, it kills bacteria but concentrates nitrate levels.
3. Determine heavy metal levels.
Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and selenium are found in rocks and soils, so they enter groundwater naturally as rocks and soil break down. Lead is one of the most common heavy metals found in well water, often as a result of lead pipes or solder used in older plumbing systems.
High lead levels can contribute to miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weights and hampered fetal development. Lead and other heavy metals don’t accumulate in breast milk, but their presence in well water can hamper your baby’s brain development, damage the nervous system, contribute to learning, memory and attention disorders, and more.
Pregnant women and infants are particularly vulnerable to the potentially harmful effects of contaminated water. Whether you’re pregnant now or planning to get pregnant in the near future, have your well water tested. It’s one of the most important precautions you can take.