Is It Safe to Fumigate While Pregnant?

Limiting exposure to pesticides and toxins is always a good idea to avoid health risks and negative effects. Studies show that people who work with and come in contact with pesticides regularly can experience adverse effects. These effects are amplified if a woman is exposed to pesticides during pregnancy. 

Fumigation is the use of concentrated pesticides that can lead to high levels of exposure. High exposure to pesticides can cause severe health problems. You should never enter a room that has been fumigated until instructed to do so by a pest control professional. 

Can Fumigation Happen During a Pregnancy?

Fumigation can happen when a woman is pregnant as long as the woman with the child does not enter the room until all traces of the toxins have been removed by a professional pest control service. 

Maternal exposure can have adverse effects on both mothers and developing children. During the first 3 months of pregnancy, the first trimester is when a fetus is the most sensitive to chemicals. All pesticide use should be suspended until after this vulnerable stage has finished. 

If spraying of insecticide must happen when pregnant, then protective clothing should be worn by anyone coming into contact with the spray and the expectant mother. To limit any risk of exposure, be sure that there is proper ventilation and that no one enters the room before it is safe. 

Follow these steps to keep pregnant women and their children safe during common pest control: 

  • Step 1: Do not fumigate or use pesticides in the same living space as a pregnant woman during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is at this stage of the initial trimester that a fetus’s neural tube is developing. Any toxins absorbed at this stage could lead to severe birth defects. Wait until the 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy if pesticide products are critical for pest control.
  • Step 2: Avoid using home insecticides for less invasive pests like fruit flies. Save any pesticide treatment for serious infestations such as roaches, termites, wasps, or fleas during a pregnancy. Toxins accumulate in fat tissue, and continuous, mild use can cause massive build-ups over time. Animal pests may need more poison than insects, so contact a pest control company for more serious situations. 
  • Step 3: If an emergency insecticide package needs to be deployed to kill a pest infestation, a pregnant woman should absolutely not be the one to bomb the insects. Always make sure someone else sprays and that a pregnant woman is out of range of inhalation and accidental skin contact with the pesticides for the full duration of the fumigation. 
  • Step 4: Remove any objects from the spray area that is food, will come in contact with food, or that are used for preparing food. Even if not in the direct spray line, toxins can settle anywhere and make their way into a pregnant woman’s body if kitchenware is not cleaned thoroughly after contact. 
  • Step 5: Before touching a pregnant woman, the person spraying the insecticide should remove any clothes that came in contact with the spray and gloves and eyewear. Covering hair and all skin during spraying and removing shoes can prevent any accidental contamination with toxic particles. 

What Happens If a Pregnant Woman Is Exposed to Pesticide?

Many things can happen to a pregnant woman if exposed to pesticides. The level of exposure, type of pesticide, pregnancy stage, and many other biological factors can determine the effects of pesticide exposure.

At the very severe end of the spectrum, pesticide exposure can lead to an immediate miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe fetal developmental damages. These effects can be caused by direct contacts, such as accidental spray ingestion, or long-term prolonged contact, as happens to some expectant mothers living near sprayed farmland. 

If toxin exposure is milder and late into the pregnancy, the effects can be drastically less devastating. Some milder but still wholly unfortunate conditions of pesticide poisoning can manifest in neurological development issues, developmental delays, and delayed cognitive abilities. Many learning disabilities are being reclassified as fetal poisoning from pesticides, water impurities, and lead exposure. 

Another way harmful chemicals can affect a pregnant woman and her child is through a much higher likelihood of cancer incubation. Both childhood cancers like leukemia and later life cancers like lymphoma are higher when linked to early pesticide exposure. Most studies focus on agricultural pesticides and their elevated risks to help keep the future of pregnancy safe. 

Birth Defects Caused by Fumigation During Pregnancy

Pregnant Women

Maternal exposure to pesticides and the effects on the development of fetuses has been the topic of many studies over the years. Prenatal exposure and utero pesticide exposure have all been linked to many of the most prevalent diseases in today’s society. 

Exposure to household pesticides to kill everyday pests was not seen as harmful for many decades, and maternal exposure and accidental exposure were not taken as seriously as it is today. There is also a misconception that natural chemicals are safe, but neem, a fully organic and natural pesticide, is a neurotoxin to humans and can lead to seizures and death if even small amounts are ingested. 

Maternal exposure has decreased as more focus has been put on limiting prenatal exposure to any toxins, insecticides or others. Concerns about exposure have grown, and utero pesticide exposure in rats has been tested to gain insight into some of these tragic health defects.

Birth DefectArea Affected
Low Birth WeightPhysical Development
Slow Fetal GrowthPhysical Development
Increased Chance of CancerImmune Deficiency 
Delays Sexual MaturityPhysical Development
Stunted Immune FunctionImmune Deficiency
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHDNeurodevelopment
Autism Spectrum DisorderNeurodevelopment

Physical Development

Prenatal exposure to household pesticides has been linked to low physical development, birth weight, physical disabilities, and other lifelong physical ailments. Some all too common examples are cleft lips and under-formed limbs. 

Other conditions that can result from prenatal exposure to insecticides are asthma and speech impediments. any developmental delays in utero can have lasting impacts on a child who suffers early exposure to household pesticides. 

Neurological Development

An association between exposure to pesticides and neurodevelopment also exists. Neurological deficiencies can come from environmental exposures or accidental exposure during pregnancy due to mistakes by a pest control company or the mother herself. 

The neurological association between pesticide exposure and the defects from pesticide exposure is just beginning to be better understood today. Most brain damage occurs during the first trimester when the neural tube is developing in an unborn child. 

Exposure during pregnancy may result in severe or mild brain development issues. ADHD and many of the challenges neurodiverse people face on the Autism spectrum are the effects of chemical pest control exposure on neurodevelopment. Frequent exposure to pesticides may cause these disorders in young children who were born healthy but deteriorate with age due to exposure. 

Immune Deficiency

Exposure to fumigation can contribute to poor immune function in children. This messed-up immune system can lead to severe allergies in children. In most instances, immune issues due to fumigation exposure can develop later than neuro and physical issues with 7-year-old children or older.

Case-control studies focusing on correlative studies between pesticide exposure and disabilities in children are ongoing. Hopefully, these immune issues will soon be a thing of the past with advances in pest control strategies, more emphasis on biomimicry, and less reliance on toxic solutions.