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Is it safe to use ant or roach spray during pregnancy?

Expert Answers

Tekoa King
certified nurse-midwife

By the time insecticides get metabolized in your body and carried through the bloodstream to the fetus, the amount of exposure to your baby is very small.

No epidemiological studies have shown that women exposed to ant or roach spray have a higher proportion of birth defects. It's hard to say what that means, however, since in those studies the amount of exposure and the number of women was probably quite small.

I don't recommend using these sprays, because the chemicals are toxic and in large amounts potentially harmful.

Christina Chambers

When it comes to most pesticides and chemicals, we don't have data on human pregnancies, and it's difficult to extrapolate from the animal studies. The most toxic pesticides we're aware of are no longer in use, but we know very little about the ones that are out there now. Several U.S. government agencies have started a major long-term study of the effects of environmental agents (including pesticides) on children's health, which may help answer the question eventually.

In the meantime, it's difficult to say what's okay. When people ask about the safety of fumigating their home and how long they should stay out, we usually suggest doubling whatever time is recommended by the manufacturer or professional applicator, just as an extra layer of precaution. For example, if you're told to stay away for four hours, then don't go inside for eight. That rule of thumb isn't based on any data about pregnancy safety, but the goal is to minimize exposure.

Alternatively, you can look for products that aren't sprayed in the air — such as roach motels or garden stakes — because they're not likely to be inhaled.

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