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Is it safe to refinish furniture when I'm pregnant?

That depends on what you want to do to your furniture and what kind of products you want to use.

To be 100 percent safe, it's always best to let someone else refinish the furniture while you're pregnant, or wait and do the work yourself after your baby is born. But if the job can't wait, there are safety measures you can take and some products you can use that are safer than others.

Products that contain chemical solvents – such as furniture-stripping products, paint removers, and varnish – are a possible safety concern during pregnancy. Many studies over the years have looked at the risks of being exposed to solvents during pregnancy. Some studies didn't find any problems, while others found possible associations with miscarriage and birth defects.

Most of the studies that did find possible problems involved women working in occupations in which they had daily exposure to solvents without adequate ventilation. Of course, the degree of chemical exposure is much higher for someone in that situation. Researchers don't know for sure what the effects of exposure are for a pregnant woman who just wants to refinish one piece of furniture.

To reduce your risk:

  • Look for products that don't contain solvents (such as toluene) and that will clean up with water.
  • Take precautions to limit your exposure to fumes by working outside or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear gloves, long sleeves, and pants.
  • Avoid eating and drinking while working with the products.

Your body will tell you if you're inhaling too many solvent fumes, as you'll tend to feel light-headed, get a headache, and possibly feel sick to your stomach. If you start to feel ill from fumes, stop what you're doing immediately and get some fresh air.

If you've been exposed to furniture-stripping chemicals but haven't felt ill, don't worry. Chances are that if the exposure had been enough to affect your baby, you'd be feeling pretty sick, too, and would have already contacted your doctor.

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