Pesticides are dangerous to people of any age and background. If you’ve ever handled a pesticide before, you know that most bottles or packages are covered with warnings because they can easily do harm to the human body if not handled properly. Therefore, it’s easy to see why they might pose a particularly big threat to pregnant women. Pregnant women should avoid pesticides and insecticides as much as possible during their pregnancy.

The chemicals in pesticides are engineered specifically to attack the nervous systems of the pests they’re controlling. In the first trimester of your pregnancy, your baby’s nervous system is developing. Obviously, coming into contact with pesticides early in your pregnancy could seriously hinder your baby’s development and well-being.

Even if you’re not an avid gardener, avoiding pesticides can be difficult sometimes. It’s okay if you’ve come into contact with pesticides during pregnancy and didn’t realize it until afterwards. Studies show that occupation exposure—or long term exposure—is more dangerous than a single instance of contact. However, if you know in advance that you’ll be around the chemicals, it’s best to prepare. Ask someone else to handle the chemicals if you’re gardening or if you need to treat your pet for fleas. You should also remove any type of eating utensils from the area. If your backyard is being sprayed, consider keeping the patio table and grill in the garage until the chemicals have settled. If the treatment is indoors, keep the windows open for ventilation afterwards. Finally, if possible, hold off on all pesticide applications until after you’ve delivered your baby. If the yard is looking particularly dead and dull because of pests, remind your husband that a healthy and happy baby is more important that a well-groomed backyard, no matter how many barbeques you might have.

Keeping your developing baby safe from environmental toxins and chemicals during pregnancy can be difficult. You’ll be exposed to exhaust fumes, compounds in tap water and radiation on a daily basis. However, experts have agreed that these chemicals in moderation are safe. Pesticides on the other hand should be avoided at all costs, because they are designed to halt the very development your baby needs most. If you can avoid pesticides during your pregnancy, that would be ideal. If you can’t, minimize your exposure as much as possible to ensure your baby’s successful and proper nervous system development in utero.

Source: Alexis Handal et al: Occupational Exposure to Pesticides During Pregnancy and Neurobehavioral development of Infants and Toddlers. Epidemiology Volume 19 Issue 6 pp. 851-859 November 2008