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Can I Use Bug Killers and Repellents During Pregnancy?

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We live where insects are a major problem. But now that I'm pregnant, I'm afraid to use any kind of bug killer or repellent. Are some OK?

Pesticides used to kill insects can harm a growing fetus, so pregnant women should stay away from them as much as possible. Exposure to them may cause miscarriage, early delivery, and birth defects. You can use safer methods such as boric acid, available at most hardware stores.

Insect repellents don’t kill insects, but help keep them away from people. So far, studies have not proved that the common ingredient DEET is a health hazard to unborn babies, though some of the chemical may reach the baby. Health care providers generally advise pregnant women to use insect repellents, including those containing DEET, because they help protect against mosquito bites that may carry serious viruses. If you use a repellent, do not use more than you need to, and wash it off when you get indoors.

Other ways to protect against insect bites:

  • Avoid going outdoors when insects such as mosquitoes are most actively biting (usually dusk and dawn).
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors to reduce the amount of exposed skin that insects can bite.
  • Keep doors and windows closed or with tight-fitting screens with no holes so insects can't enter the house.
Date reviewed: January 2021