Toxins, Pesticides and Pregnancy

Many women are aware that prolonged exposure to harsh chemicals is a no-no during pregnancy. However, many women tend to overlook their very regular exposure to household cleaners.

Because we frequently use disinfectants and bleaches in our homes, it is easy to forget that these chemicals can be toxic. And since women are often the main cleaners in their homes, we are the ones who risk the most exposure to these toxins.


Painting has long been recognized as an unsafe activity for pregnant women. Despite the fact that today's water-based paints are, in theory, safer than the paint we used before, most experts recommend that women avoid painting while they are pregnant.

And if any painting is going on in a household with a pregnant woman, make sure the house is well ventilated.

One activity that pregnant women should definitely avoid when pregnant is paint stripping, especially if your home was built before 1978.

This is because it is very likely that some of those layers of paint will contain lead. Simply breathing in the dust produced by lead paint is enough to expose both you and your baby to the lead, which can cause harm not only to your baby's developing brain, but also to her nervous system.


Unlike household cleaners, pesticides and insecticides have been linked to birth defects, especially with exposure during the first trimester. Therefore, you should always avoid exposure to pesticides, including household gardening pesticides, and insecticides, like those used indoors for ants and cockroaches, whenever possible.

However, before you go running for cover every time you pass by a lawn that has been treated with pesticides, keep in mind that the real risk arises from intense or prolonged exposure to the chemicals.

If you can't avoid the use of pesticides in your home, then follow these guidelines to keep yourself and your baby safe:

  • Ask someone else to apply the pesticide and leave the area for the duration of time specified on the package
  • If the chemicals are being used indoors, then make sure your home is well ventilated. If they are being applied outdoors, then shut all your windows and turn off your air conditioner so that the fumes don�t get drawn into your home.
  • For chemicals used indoors, make sure you thoroughly wash any areas where food is prepared, as well as all utensils and tableware before you use them. To minimize your cleaning, consider removing your utensils and tableware before applying the pesticide.
  • Always wear protective clothing and gloves when your are gardening to avoid exposure to plants that have been treated with pesticide. As well, this will help reduce your risk of contracting a toxoplasmosis infection from the soil.

Is Bug Spray Safe During Pregnancy?

Bug sprays containing DEET have not been properly evaluated for safety during pregnancy and therefore should be used with caution.

Instead of applying the bug repellant directly onto your skin where it can be absorbed, apply it to your clothing instead. Use gloves or an applicator so the spray doesn't get on to your hands.

Table of Contents
1. Toxins, Pesticides and Pregnancy
2. Household cleaners? Be careful.
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