Insect Repellent: Is it Safe?

deet and pregnancy safe

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Mosquitoes suck. And then you itch. If you're pregnant and you get a bite in a hard to reach spot, scratching can be impossible.

Just another tiny thing to add to your overall discomfort. Thank goodness for bug sprays. Wait, can you even use those while you're pregnant? Let's see.


Most mosquito repellents contain DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), which is extremely effective (studies show it's the best protection against mosquitoes), however some people have questioned its safety.

According to EarthTalk, "a study conducted in the late 1980s on Everglades National Park employees found that 25 percent of the subjects studied experienced negative health effects that they blamed on exposure to DEET. Effects included rashes, skin irritation, numb or burning lips, nausea, headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentrating.

And in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it. But other studies have shown that while a few people have sensitivity to DEET applications, most are unaffected when they use DEET products on a sporadic basis according to the instructions on the label."

The folks at seem to think it's better to be safe than sorry, and say that if you're pregnant, "Don't use insect repellents that contain the chemical DEET. Although its effects have not been thoroughly studied in pregnant women, there are some concerns about its toxicity."

So what's a pregnant women to do to protect herself from mosquitoes and other pesky insects? Like many of your decisions in these nine months, it's all up to you (and of course you can see what your doctor recommends), but keep these tips in mind:

1. If you do choose to use a DEET-based product, don't spray it on your skin, spray it on your clothes, and follow all of the safety instructions on the product.

2. If you decide to forgo bug sprays containing DEET for something more natural, remember that most natural bug repellents don't last as long and you'll have to reapply more frequently.

Will you use insect repellents that contain DEET? If not, what do you recommend?

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