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Is it safe to have termites exterminated while I'm pregnant?

Christina Chambers

We don't know whether the pesticides used to kill bugs are safe or not safe in pregnancy.

But since they could be toxic to you or the baby, we recommend you leave your house while the extermination is taking place and, if you can, stay out twice the length of time the exterminator recommends for pregnant women. So if the company advises you to stay out one day, stay out two. That's not based on any scientific evidence about the increased risk of birth defects or any data that confirms that two days is safer than one day. It's just adding an extra layer of precaution.

For more information about pesticide toxicity (which isn't specifically related to pregnancy), one resource is the National Pesticide Clearinghouse at 800-858-7378. To find a Teratogen Information Service near you that can give you information related to exposures in pregnancy, go to the website www.otispregnancy.org.

Lori Wolfe
Genetic counselor

This answer depends on the exact product and the method of application. Be sure to talk with your exterminator and ask what products will be used. The most commonly used product for termites is Termidor, which contains 9.1 percent fipronil as the only active ingredient. Animal studies with fipronil have not shown an increased risk for birth defects or developmental delay.

As no human pregnancy studies have been done, however, exterminate during pregnancy only if absolutely necessary. In general, avoid the use of all pesticides during pregnancy. If you must use pesticides, don't handle the materials yourself; leave the house during application; air out the house well if products have been sprayed; and wipe down any indoor surfaces that have come in contact with a liquid pesticide.

There are also natural termite control solutions that have no risk to humans. Ask your exterminator about these.

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