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Is it Safe to Use Insect Repellent When Pregnant?

Is it Safe to Use Insect Repellent When Pregnant?

Morning sickness, mood swings, humidity, pregnancy and now these insects are getting on to your nerves. If you are planning to take your vengeance on these tiny bugs with a repellent, don't you want to know if it could also harm your baby.
Urvashi Pokharna
They are everywhere! In your house, park and convenience stores, during monsoons or summers. They may bite or just linger around you. Insects of all types and sizes can really be such pests (pun intended). Having mosquitoes declare a war against your body with no persuasion, attacking you from all different directions, can give you mixed feelings of rage, exasperation and helplessness. If you are pregnant, multiply that by a hundred! Did you know? During pregnancy, you exhale more carbon-dioxide which attracts mosquitoes and, hence, they are more likely to victimize you first. Your only boon in the bane seems to be your insect repellent. But, how safe are the chemicals in it for your little angel? There are both natural as well as chemical repellents available, so which one will you choose?
► What Should You Avoid?
You must know that there are two types of insect repellents available in the market. They are the synthetic ones that contain chemicals, and the other type is the bio-pesticide that is plant-based. All chemical formulations contain DEET and/or picaridin, whereas the natural ones are composed of citronella oil, lemon eucalyptus oil and IR3535.
» Most insect repellents manufactured world-wide since 1957, contain DEET or N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, which is easily absorbed when it gets in contact with the skin and enters the blood. Although its effect is unproven in humans, it increased the chances of birth defects like bone and skeletal abnormalities in offspring of rabbits when exposed to the chemical DEET under experimentation. Be extremely cautious about the concentration of DEET in your insect repellent. It should be no more than 30% to be considered 'safe'.
» Above 50%, it is highly poisonous, and can affect the nervous system, cause convulsions and severe epidermal irritation even in a normal person. In pregnant women using insect repellents containing DEET, the chemical was found to be as much as 8% in cord blood samples. However, no side-effects were detected in either the mother or the baby after birth.
» You should keep chemical repellents away from your children and wash it off as soon as you enter an insect-free zone to prevent accumulation of chemicals in their body. However, if you are going to an endemic areas that are densely populated or a forest, tall grass area or traveling, it is extremely important that you use a bug spray than nothing at all because an insect bite can be potentially dangerous for your child. These areas are infested with mosquitoes, it is best to use an insect repellent containing DEET, and protect your unborn child against life-threatening viruses.
» While using plant-based insect repellents, one must cautiously check the ingredients. It is advisable to avoid the use of repellents containing witch hazel, lemongrass oil, eucalyptus oil, cinnamon oil, neem oil and citronella. There is no substantial evidence about their safety during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
► Go Natural
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the safety of all products that come in contact with our skin. Some of the options that can be considered during pregnancy have been given below.
» According to the statistics available on the organization's website, Avon's Skin-So-Soft product range contains IR3535 as an active ingredient and is effective for up to 2 hours.
» Natrapel 8-hour, is a DEET-free insect repellent that contains 20% picaridin, and offers protection from bugs for up to 8 hours. Picaridin, introduced to American insect repellent formulations in recent years, seems to be a less toxic chemical as compared to DEET. Well, I haven't laid my hands on the spray or had a first-hand experience of it, I am hoping one of you will try it and write back sharing their story on it.
» Any kind of neglect can cause much harm to your baby especially when the fetus is in the early stages of its development. Although most insect repellents are touted to be safe to use during pregnancy, it is better to carefully read the label on the spray and be safe than sorry. However, I wouldn't support the idea of exposing your baby to chemicals at a fetal stage at all.
» Try a natural insect repellent or plant-based insect repellent that can be safely used as topical repellents. Wear light colors and steer clear off scented products. You could also use mosquito nets and wear full clothing like they did in earlier times and cover up.
During pregnancy, better avoid going to places where several insects could attack you with deadly diseases like the Lyme disease, West Nile virus and Rocky Mountain fever. Your baby's safety comes first.