Friday, September 11, 2009

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Pregnancy


Hi, Dr:

I am a little over 9 weeks pregnant. Over the last 3 weeks or so, I have been suffering with severe nausea and vomiting, and was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. At one point I needed to go to the ER for IV fluids, and my doctor started my on an anti-nausea medication called Zofran. Even with use of the medication, I have continued to feel very 'queasy' and there are days when I still vomit.
I recently moved to a new apartment and wanted to use the oven yesterday for the first time. When I turned it on, there was a strange smell emanating from it, so I went into the bedroom to watch some TV. About 20 minutes later, I began to feel very lightheaded and developed a headache. Concerned, I evacuated the building and called my local gas company to inspect for a gas leak. When they arrived and checked out the premises, they informed me that there was no gas leak, but that there was carbon monoxide coming out of the oven vents and this was likely responsible for my symptoms.
After sitting outside for a few minutes and getting some fresh air, I began to feel much better. The problem is that since this incident, I have not been feeling my usual "nausea and vomiting" symptoms. In fact, last evening for the first time I was actually able to eat dinner! I'm no longer feeling that constant nausea and my appetite has returned full force. I spoke to my doctor's office and they were very dismissive of what happened, telling me that the baby and I are probably fine. I have a nagging suspicion that the carbon monoxide exposure has had an ill effect of my baby. What should I do?

Hello T from the U.S.,
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that can lead to death if not treated quickly. By getting out into the fresh air, you treated the problem, and allowed oxygen to get into your system. the CO works by blocking the oxygen uptake in the red blood cell. Usually you cannot smell CO, which is what makes it so deadly. You basically "suffocate" to death.
The CO should not have any affect on your baby or pregnancy since you treated it quickly. Again the worry would be the lack of oxygen delivery to the baby. It is possible that the reason your N/V resolved is because you have advanced in your pregnancy. It will often cease after a period of time that is variable from pregnancy to pregnancy.
I think if you need further reassurance that everything is proceeding well, then you should schedule to see your doctor and have an ultrasound done. This way they can verify that the baby/ pregnancy is proceeding well. Of course if there are any effects on the baby itself, that cannot be detected unless it is catastrophic, but there is a blood-placental barrier that keeps toxic chemicals away from the baby.
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.
for additional information check out my blog at check me out on facebook and twitter with me at @montereybayivf.

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