Painting While Pregnant: Is it Safe For Your Baby?

Discover the risks and whether or not it's safe for you.

is it safe to paint when you're pregnant?

After feeling your baby’s first movements in your belly, one of the most exciting things during pregnancy is creating a beautiful, cozy nursery to welcome your little one in to your home.

A new crib, a rocking chair, a change table, and a fresh coat of paint that coordinates with the bedding and curtains are just some of the bigger details that you plan for your baby’s first bedroom.

But wait. Is painting safe while you’re pregnant?

Maybe you’ve already painted and now you’re worried that you might have harmed your unborn child,

Here’s the short answer. Painting is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy. I painted my firstborn’s nursery while I was pregnant with him and 15 years later I think it’s safe to say he turned out all right. He’s a teenager so it’s hard to know these days.

All jokes aside, let’s look at some of the potential risks that could occur if you’re painting during pregnancy and what you need to know in order to protect yourself and your unborn baby.

Common sense painting

When it comes to what is safe and what is not during pregnancy, all it takes is a little common sense.

The common-sense painting rules.

No ladders. The first rule is to stay off of ladders when you’re eight or nine months pregnant. Ladders are probably more risky than painting when your balance is jeopardized by your large belly and loose joints.

Be aware of smells. When you’re using any kind of chemical product, step away from it if you begin to feel light-headed or sick. In pregnancy, you’re more likely to feel more nauseous than usual to being with. You will often find that your body is more sensitive to every smell you encounter, so use this to your advantage. If you’re painting and the smell bothers you, take that as a crystal clear sign that you should not be painting.

Ventilate the room. If the smell of paint doesn’t bother you, make sure you ventilate your area well by opening windows and having a light fan blowing fresh air into the area you’re working in. Limit your skin exposure by dressing in long sleeves, pants, and wearing gloves.

Consider avoiding it. If you’re very worried about protecting your unborn child, you can simply avoid painting during the first trimester.

Research does not prove that the specific chemicals in paint increase your chance of miscarriage or birth defects, but if you would rather not take the chance, the decision is yours. Chances are slim that you’re putting your child at risk, but a slight risk can not be ruled out.

Chemical Free Paint

Manufacturers now produce paints specifically for nurseries and children’s rooms that are made with fewer chemicals, specifically VOC’s, also known as Volatile Organic Compounds.

Ask for low or no-VOC paint at your local hardware or paint store. Knowing you have reduced your exposure to paint chemicals during pregnancy and your child’s once they are born can give you greater peace of mind.

The safest kind of paint to use, other than low or no-VOC paint is water-based paint, known as latex or acrylic paint. These paints clean up easily with soap and warm water. They don’t contain harmful chemicals like solvents.

If you’re unsure about using paint that you might already have in the house, call the paint manufacturer to find out whether or not their paint is safe to use while pregnant. It never hurts to ask. And if you have doubts, don’t use it.

Potential risks with unsafe paint.

Oil based paints contain solvents and they may also contain lead, zinc, or aluminum. Although paints with lead haven’t been manufactured for years, oil or solvent-based paints are still available. Avoid using them when you’re pregnant.

Another way you might be exposed to lead based paints is if you live in an older house. Before you remove paint or wallpaper from the walls, find out if the paint used was oil based. It could contain lead. You should not be removing it yourself. Have someone else do the work for you while you are not at home.

If you’re thinking of stripping down an old dresser to repaint for the nursery, think again about paints with lead and/or solvents. Solvents are frequently used to strip furniture of their finish or old paint. If you must do it yourself, do the job outside, wear a mask, and protect yourself head to toe.


What are the real risks?

The information on painting during pregnancy is not very clear.

There is a very small indication that exposure to paint chemicals may increase the risk of having a miscarriage. However, this was only seen in women who were exposed frequently to high levels of solvents over a period of time either by choice or by profession.

The other risk noted was that a high solvent exposure increased birth defect rates slightly. Every pregnant woman has a three to five percent chance of giving birth to a child with a defect. Approximately ten percent of those baby’s who are born with birth defects have a defect linked to chemical exposure.

Unless you’re sniffing solvents or in an environment where you’re constantly inhaling paint or chemical fumes, your risk of miscarriage or birth defect won’t be any higher than the average pregnant woman’s risk.

Nesting for a nursery

Not all women go through a typical nesting phase during pregnancy but most of us like to create a cozy bedroom where you will spend the better part of your year with your new baby.

If you’re planning on painting your nursery, use your common sense. Have plenty of fresh air and take a break when you need to. Also, make sure you use latex paints and avoid solvents and spray paints to reduce your risk of miscarriage or birth defects.

Create your dream nursery with care and you and your child will enjoy it for years.

Resources:

  1. BabyCenter – Is it Safe to Be Around Paint or Fumes During Pregnancy?
  2. NHS.uk – Can paint fumes affect my unborn baby?
  3. BabyMed – Paint & Paint Fumes During Pregnancy

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