Reorganizing the closet, painting the nursery, deep cleaning the house. The nesting instinct is a pre-labor ritual many women experience during their last few weeks of pregnancy. It’s nature’s way of kicking us into high gear to prepare our “nest” for baby.
But during the cleaning frenzy, watch out for certain household chemicals, such as some paints, paint thinners, oven cleaners, varnish removers and carpet cleaners. These may be harmful, especially in high doses.
“Many household cleaning products, such as bathroom, kitchen cleaners and soaps are generally considered safe in pregnancy,” said Dr. Stephen Bacak, maternal fetal medicine specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Products that contain chlorine, like bleach, and ammonia are also probably safe to mothers and their babies. However, the smell of these products may cause nausea in some women.”
To help keep household chemicals in perspective during your pregnancy:
- Talk to your doctor about any chemicals you may use at home or at work.
- Read product labels. If it’s unsafe to use during pregnancy, the label should say that it’s toxic. If the label doesn’t specify, contact the manufacturer.
- Open windows and doors, or use fans, to make sure the area is well ventilated.
- Use rubber gloves and long-sleeve clothing to protect you from skin irritation.
- Wash your hands and arms, even if you wore gloves, after using chemicals.
- Opt for natural products like baking soda, borax and vinegar for cleaning.
- Have someone else paint the baby’s nursery, and definitely don’t help with the removal of paint if your home was built before 1978 as it may contain lead-based paint. You can always take over the decorating duties after the paint dries!
“While limited exposure to latex and water-based paint is likely safe to both mother and baby, it’s best to avoid exposure to paint fumes and time spent in freshly painted rooms while pregnant,” said Dr. Bacak. “Many paints contain solvents or chemicals that may lead to health problems such as brain, liver and kidney damage when inhaled. Also, exposure to solvents during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, birth defects and preterm delivery.”