Q: Is it safe to use insect repellent during pregnancy?


A: Insect repellants protect, among other things, against mosquito bites which can transmit the West Nile virus and tick bites which can transmit Lyme disease. Since there is evidence that West Nile virus could be passed through breast milk and from a mother to her unborn child, it is important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to take steps to reduce their risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito and tick transmitted infection.

The best repellents use a chemical called DEET (Diethyltoluamide (dye-eth-il-toe-LOO-a-mide) which is very effective against mosquitoes, biting flies (gnats, sandflies, deer flies, stable flies, black flies), ticks, harvest mites, and fleas.

There is no evidence that the use of DEET by pregnant or lactating women poses a health hazard to unborn babies or children who are breast-feeding. In fact, the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) has advised that pregnant women take precautions to reduce their risk of West Nile Virus infection and other infections by avoiding mosquito bites and using protective clothing and DEET-based repellents.

In a study published in 1994 there was no evidence of fetal toxic effects or malformations in the offspring of exposed animals, regardless of the dose used, and in another. study a randomized, double-blind trial involving 897 pregnant women in Thailand there were no adverse effects were observed in the women or their children exposed to DEET.

Insect repellents other than DEET-based ones contain often citronella but there is not much data on their safety. And they usually do not have as much adequate protection against mosquito and tick bites as DEET has.

Consider taking simple precautions to lessen your chance of being bitten by a mosquito:

Remove mosquito breeding sites like stagnant water around your home and vacation property and regularly drain standing water from items like pool covers, saucers under flower pots, recycle bins, garbage cans.
Try to avoid spending time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active.
Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat.
Light coloured clothing is best because mosquitoes tend to be more attracted to dark colours.
Make sure that door and window screens fit tightly and have no holes that may allow mosquitoes indoors.