When you're pregnant, you’re supposed to try and avoid as many things that can negatively impact your pregnancy as possible. This can be difficult when the negative factor is a jackhammer in the hands of a construction crew, the train whistle blowing through your backyard every two hours, or planes taking off in a city with an airport. Here’s a look at how noise can impact pregnancy and what to do about it.
Noise and Fetal Development
Hearing develops very early in the womb. By the 24th week of gestation, the cochlea and peripheral sensory end-organs are complete, and around the 25th week, sudden loud noises may startle your developing baby. The hearing threshold of a fetus is considerably higher than that of adults, but decreases to a normal range by birth. One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) through the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that by the end of pregnancy, babies are hearing sounds at about the baseline of a lawn mower (72-88db).
Other research starting in 1974 suggests fetuses and newborns exposed to too much noise may suffer from noise-induced hearing loss and other health conditions. Experts suggest excessive, loud noise may cause birth defects, premature birth, and decreased birth weight. The Committee of the Environment of the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that, "Exposure to excessive noise during pregnancy may result in high frequency hearing loss in newborns, and may be associated with prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation."
Noise in the Workplace
Many pregnant women may be concerned with their loud workplace. You can distract yourself from constant chaos with earplugs or noise canceling headphones, but a developing fetus only has the protection of the amniotic fluid and a few layers of tissue. Despite the conclusions of fetal development and noise related studies, there are no regulations in the United States granting pregnant women immunity from working around high noise levels.
Obviously, the world would be a better place if obnoxious noises were done away with. Since that’s highly unlikely, it’s important to take a little extra care of yourself -- for both you and your unborn baby’s well-being. Depending on age, this might include:
- Eliminating, reducing, or staying away from loud noises when possible
- Wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or noise canceling headphones
- Limiting time spent around noise
- Requesting to do your work away from the source of the noise
- Playing white noise to block out obnoxious noise
Noise can be eliminated or reduced by turning off or down the cause of the noise, as well as insulating the home to reduce external noise. Granted, this seems like a lot of work for a temporary situation, but you’ll be bringing a newborn into the home eventually -- and that’s a much more permanent situation.
When it isn’t possible to eliminate or reduce noise, wear some kind of ear protection. Set time limits for concerts, movies, or plays, and sit wherever is farthest from the speakers. You should also try and time outdoor excursions for when construction or traffic noises are at their lowest.