Burning incense is popular
Incense burning is a popular practice in Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore, where traditional Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, and Taoism are mainstream religions.
It usually takes around 1–1.5 hr to burn a stick of incense, during which time, the incense stick emits smoke containing particulate matter (PM), gas products such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, and xylenes, which are potentially harmful to health. A few studies have studied the relationship between direct exposure to incense burning and health outcomes of adults and preschool or school-age children. This literature has so far found that incense burning at home and in temples was related to an increase in the likelihood of respiratory health symptoms and allergies and other health issues including those in pregnancy.
Incense may not be safe in pregnancy
A study published ion 2016 showed that incense in pregnancy may be associated with smaller head sizes of babies and with lower birthweights in boys.
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 cancer to form the incense must be burned very frequently, and the smoke needs to actually be inhaled.
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.
Better safe than sorry
Since there is evidence that incense in pregnancy may be harmful, you may 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.