If you have the energy and motivation during your summer pregnancy, you might have the pleasure of attending a barbeque or two. While you won’t necessarily be partaking in the beer pong or volleyball tournament, there’s nothing better than sitting outside with friends on a nice summer day with friends. If you’re at the barbeque and start getting annoyed by mosquitos and pests, you’ll probably wonder whether or not using bug spray might harm your growing baby. Generally, bug spray is safe, but you should read the active ingredients before dousing yourself in it.

One of the most common active ingredients in bug spray is called DEET. Unless you have a sensitivity to it, DEET is usually harmless. In a recent study, women who use the recommended amount of insect repellent containing DEET did not harm their baby in anyway. However, it’s important to remember that any chemical that touches your skin could go into your bloodstream and reach your baby. Therefore, using more than the recommended amount could expose your baby to too much DEET, and the side effects of an overdose are unknown. To prevent contact with your bloodstream, use repellents with the lowest concentration of the chemical as possible, and try putting the repellent on your clothes instead of directly on your skin. It will work just the same.

If you’re still worried about exposing your growing baby to DEET while you’re pregnant, there are some alternatives to using bug spray. If the cookout is at your house, buy tents with bug nets so that you and your friends will be protected from insects while you’re enjoying your food. A good old-fashioned bonfire tends to keep bugs away, and lighting candles with citronella oil is the next best thing to bug spray with DEET. There are even some unusual home remedies that pregnant women swear by, such as a light spray of Listerine mouthwash, tea tree oil or cactus juice.

Bugs can really be annoying at any outdoor event, so having the option to use insect repellent while you’re pregnant can make your time outdoors much more enjoyable. As long as you only use the recommended amount, bug spray is safe to use while you’re pregnant. Even if the spray contains low levels of DEET, your baby will not experience any negative side effects from the chemicals, and you won’t have to be swatting mosquitos all night.

Source: R. McGready et al: Safety Of The Insect Repellent N,N-Diethyl-M-Toluamide (DEET) In Pregnancy. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygeine Volume 65 Issue 4 October 2011