Pregnancy and Painting

pregnancy and painting

While many things about pregnancy are not fun, one of the high points can be planning and decorating the nursery.  It is common for expectant moms get the urge to create a truly unique and special place for their newborn child.  Often this will require painting (or repainting) a room to achieve the perfect backdrop for baby’s retreat.

While there are no studies showing the effects on household painting on a developing baby in utero, it IS widely known that exposure to lead-based paint increases the likelihood of lead poisoning and mental retardation.  That is why paints containing lead have been banned in the U.S. since the late 1970s.  The danger exists not only in the liquid paint, but especially in inhaling the dust created when lead paint is removed from surfaces by sanding or scraping. If it is necessary to remove old paint, it is NOT safe to do so while pregnant. Have a professional or a non-pregnant friend or family member do the job.  Once the removal is complete and all dust cleaned from the area, it will be safe for you to return to the project.

So, that being said, it is often asked, “Is it then safe for a pregnant woman to paint the nursery?”  The answer, depending on the circumstances is actually “Yes” and “No.”

Mainly, it depends on the type of paint used and the precautions taken during the painting project.  Using only water-based or latex paint is highly recommended.  Oil-base and enamel paints have far higher levels of VOCs (or volatile organic compounds).  These petroleum-based chemicals can cause health problems if too much is inhaled.  Since it is difficult to measure how much of the paint chemicals are absorbed, a low or, ideally, no VOC paint, is best.

Even when using a low VOC paint, it is best to take the following precautions:

  • Minimize the exposure time, even to latex paints

  • Avoid paints containing ethylene glycol ethers or biocides

  • Keep area well ventilated with the use of open windows and fans

  • Cover exposed skin with long sleeves and pants

  • Use gloves and a mask

  • Do not eat or drink in the room where you are painting

  • Do not over-exert yourself. Take breaks as necessary.

While the likelihood of any problems resulting from one-time exposure to latex paint and fumes is quite low, you may want to take the highest precaution of all by relying on your partner, family members or friends to complete the painting tasks.  This completely relieves you of any painting-related worries and allows you to concentrate on choosing the perfect decorations to complete the nursery and welcome your newborn home!

Photo: Grzegorz Skibka - pixabay