This weekend, my husband and I invited friends over for dinner. They had just shared the news that they were pregnant again, and we wanted to congratulate them with a home-cooked meal. While we cleaned the apartment in preparation, I performed my usual ritual of lighting my favorite incense as I tidied up the living room to give the place that extra comforting feel. Though, as soon as the smell filled me nostrils, I thought twice about it. I wondered—is incense safe to burn during pregnancy? When I did a little bit of research online before they arrived, my findings actually surprised me.

A few different studies link frequent incense use with cancer in the respiratory tract. Therefore, many experts agree that it is unsafe during pregnancy. However, for the cancer to form the incense must be burned very frequently, and the smoke needs to actually be inhaled. I blew out the embers immediately so as not to risk my friend and her baby’s health, but upon giving it more thought I realized it probably would have been fine to leave burning.

For incense to be dangerous during pregnancy, a pregnant woman would have to burn a stick at least once a day and be close enough to it to actually breathe in the smoke. Though I think the occasional Nag Champa during pregnancy is fine, I also wouldn’t blame any pregnant woman for putting it away until after the baby is born. You might make many sacrifices during your pregnancy, and giving up on a few mood-scented moments here and there is nothing compared to giving up wine with the girls or hot tub visits.  Since there is no evidence that explicitly states that incense is safe during pregnancy, you might be wise to avoid it for now. At the same time, you don’t necessarily need to run screaming if you arrive at a friend’s house and smell some burning.

Since there is definitely some evidence supporting the dangerous claims of incense, it is understandable if you want to avoid it during your pregnancy. Instead, light a scented candle if you want to fill the house with a pleasant smell. Though, be cautious about scented oils and plants because some of those are dangerous during your pregnancy as well. When in doubt, call your doctor and find out which items are safe and which are not during your pregnancy.

Source: Jeppe Friborg et al: Incense Use and Respiratory Tract Carcinomas. Cancer Volume 113 Issue 7 pp. 1676-1684 October 2008

Keyword Tags: