Can I Use Insect Repellent During Pregnancy?

The summer season can be pretty brutal, it can be even more brutal for those 5-9 months along in their pregnancy! Especially if you live in a climate where mosquitos are rampant. Mosquitos and mosquito repellent is a much spoken about topic in the pregnancy world. Let’s take a deep dive into some of the more popular questions and understand what the best choices are for those expecting!

What are insect repellents? 

Insect repellents are lotions, sprays, or oils that are put on skin or clothing to lower the chance of bites from mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and spiders. Some insect repellents are better than others at preventing bites and protecting against malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and Zika virus

What insect repellents ingredients are considered safe for use?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following ingredients for protection against bites in moderate doses:

  • DEET (most effective against mosquitos)
  • Picaridin 
  • IR3535 
  • 2-undecanone 

How much repellent should I be using? 

When pregnant, it is best not to overuse any product with substantial chemicals. Any repellent with toxic capacity should be used intelligently and in small amounts. There are multiple natural alternatives one can use in addition to the chemical repellents such as citrus, citronella, and chrysanthemum, however, the alternatives have not had their effectiveness tested. When applying insect repellent use enough so that your exposed skin is covered. 

Is it better for me to get mosquito bites than to use insect repellent? 

No. It is not better for you to get mosquito bites than it is for you to use repellent. When pregnant it is especially important for you to be cautious around mosquitos in the summertime as they can carry a variety of diseases that can be harmful to you and your baby. 

How do I prevent mosquito bites without using repellent? 

If you are not keen on using insect repellent regularly, there are many actions you can take to minimize your risk of getting mosquito bites. Staying inside during peak mosquito hours (including dawn to dusk) is one of the most effective methods. You can also wear protective clothing with long sleeves and pants with socks when outside. Minimizing mosquito bites indoors is more tricky. Using screens and keeping your rooms air-conditioned will help. 

Is insect repellent safe for use during pregnancy? 

Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and other major health organizations recommend the use of insect repellents to protect pregnant women and their unborn babies from diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Insect repellents such as DEET and picaridin can help protect against mosquito bites that spread diseases like malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. Having any of these diseases during pregnancy can be harmful to a developing baby. However, it is important to be mindful of how much repellent you are using and how you are applying it. When applying insect repellent, do so outdoors and limit the inhalation of the fumes. If available, use a facemask to shield yourself. 

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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