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Pregnant Women Vs. Insects

by Jane Wangersky | August 28th, 2012 | Pregnancy
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If you’re pregnant in summer, you’re already uncomfortable, and you probably feel you don’t need insect bites to add to your troubles. But is it safe to use insect repellants during pregnancy? Pregnant women hear so many warnings against using chemicals (without clearing it with their doctors, anyway), that you may think you should just give up and let yourself get bitten for now.

The bad news is that no one has done enough research to answer this question, according to the Center for Disease Control. The effects of DEET, a long-lasting repellant used in Off! (Deep Woods and Skintastic) on pregnant women and their babies haven’t been studied completely. The effects of picaridin (in Cutter Advanced Insect Repellant and Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard) in pregnancy haven’t been studied at all. We do know that DEET crosses the placenta. Picaridin is less toxic — but whether that means it’s safer in pregnancy is unclear.

There are ways to minimize the risks. The CDC doesn’t say pregnant women shouldn’t use insect repellant at all — because bites from insects such as mosquitoes carry their own risk of infections that can harm both the mother and child. It does recommend you put it mostly on your clothes rather than skin. You may also just want to stay inside when mosquitoes are most likely to be around — early and late in the day, in other words.

Are there any risk-free effective insect repellants? Some people rely on good old citronella candles or any one of a dozen or so aromatherapy oils. Others say these have no effect except a psychological one. If you’re thinking of going natural, keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean “harmless”. Essential oils can be powerful, so ask your doctor about them as you would with any other substance.

Finally — pesticides are another concern, one you have less control over. Your area may be sprayed with chemicals like naled to keep the mosquito population down. This is another substance whose effects on pregnancy haven’t been studied, however the CDC does say:

But in tests on animals, pesticides similar to naled have not been linked with pregnancy problems, except at doses that also made the mother animal sick.

As with other issues in pregnancy, you’re walking a sometimes fine line between one risk and another, and it’s going to take extra care on your part.

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