Safety Use of Mosquito Repellent for Pregnant Women

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

Studies show that pregnant women are twice more prone to mosquito bites than non-pregnant women. Scientists believe mosquitoes are drawn to the increased levels of carbon dioxide a pregnant woman releases. In addition, because mosquitoes love heat, the high body temperature of pregnant women makes them the ideal meals for mosquitoes. Needless to say, the best way to protect against mosquito bites is using mosquito repellents. But are they safe during pregnancy?

Should you be concerned about mosquito bites during pregnancy?

If you are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, your baby may be born with microcephaly – a birth defect causing a baby to have a small head and developmental delays. Even if the affected baby does not show any sign of microcephaly at birth, he or she will still develop it later. That’s why it’s advisable not to travel to regions affected by Zika. Other mosquito-borne illnesses such as chikungunya and dengue can pose serious health risks to an expectant mother and her baby.

Are mosquito repellents safe for pregnant women?

The answer depends on what type of repellents you use. Experts consider repellents with citrus, citronella and chrysanthemum as safe for pregnancy. Unfortunately, those repellents are much less effective than the ones using DEET. However, the stronger a repellent is, the higher chance it has some levels of toxicity. So, they should only be used in small amounts.

Animal studies suggest a link between DEET and cardiac birth defects. However, it’s only dangerous in high levels and with constant exposure. Although there is no study on humans, it’s best to take precautions when using repellents with DEET, just to stay on the safe side.

Repellents and sunscreens

While products contain both a repellent and an SPF seem more convenient, they are not recommended. If you want to use a sunscreen, apply it under your repellent. Also, keep in mind that sunscreen filters degrade faster when using with a DEET-containing repellent. So, you will need to re-apply your sunscreen more frequently.

Other tips to prevent mosquito bites

Stay inside during dawn and dusk hours because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants and socks. Don’t forget your ankles and the back of your neck. Studies found that certain breeds of mosquitoes specifically aim to attack these parts since they are less sensitive.

If you can afford it, use clothing that has been treated with permethrin to ward off mosquitoes. You can also buy permethrin and spray it on your clothes to save money. However, do not let permethrin touch your skin.

Always sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: May 21, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019

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