Painting While Pregnant: Is It Safe for Your Unborn Baby?

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Portrait of smiling white Caucasian young pregnant woman drawing painting standing at easel in home studio.

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Can You Paint When You Are Pregnant?

More women are concerned about the answer to this question than you might think. Often, it comes with a desire to paint the nursery for the impending bundle of joy. Sometimes it’s more innocent than that, such as a desire to do crafts or paint Mom’s nails. Some mommies-to-be seriously enjoy pedicures during their pregnancy. Those ankles can swell! Rest assured the answer to this question is yes, it is completely safe to paint while you are pregnant — with a few accommodations that is.

Painting While Pregnant: The First Trimester

The first trimester is a scary time for most pregnant women. Those who are lucky might not discover their pregnancy until several weeks into it, allowing them to skip past some of the most worrisome days of early gestation. Miscarriage is always a major concern at this stage, especially for women who have already endured it. According to the Los Angeles Fertility Center, only around two percent of women experience miscarriage two times in a row. Still, many are worried that this time will be just like last time. For that reason, they aim to do all that they can to protect their pregnancy. Avoiding painting might be one such feat that they consider a necessity in those early weeks.A pregnant woman and her husband is ready to paint.

Read more about Miscarriage

For other women, the fear of miscarriage may not be all that weighs on their mind. Instead, they might be worried about deformities and birth defects that could be caused by inhaling paint fumes or exposing their skin to the chemicals that are in a regular can of household or craft paint. Around three percent of American babies are born with birth defects, per the Physician’s Committee. After all, we know these chemicals are strong enough that people inhale them on purpose to get high. If a can of paint can contribute to substance abuse then perhaps it’s not the safest thing for a pregnant woman to be handling, right?

Not so fast. Remember that people who get high from huffing paint are doing just that — huffing it. They often contain the paint in a small space on purpose to trap themselves with the fumes. In some cases they’ll even put a bag over their head and the can of paint. This isn’t typical use of paint. Pregnant women who are hoping to spend their free time painting a craft project or their grandmother’s old rocking chair should not be terribly concerned with exposure to paint and its fumes even in the early weeks as long as the area they are painting in is well-ventilated.

The Second and Third Trimesters

So the second trimester arrives and the worry of miscarriage is mostly behind you by then. Only 10 percent
of known pregnancies miscarry after 12 weeks along per Baby Med. In the third trimester, there is little concern of miscarriage and more so of birth defects. However, in most pregnancies an anatomy scan would have been performed by this point (usually around 20 weeks) to rule out such. Although some birth defects may not be caught until delivery, most are picked up on in utero nowadays. There is no grave concern surrounding the use of typical household latex paints in the second or third trimester. Again, make sure the area is well-ventilated.Portrait of smiling white Caucasian young pregnant woman drawing painting standing at easel in home studio.

Can Paint Fumes Affect My Unborn Baby?

What do we mean by well-ventilated? Well even if you’re six months pregnant in the middle of December you should open a window or two while painting that baby’s nursery. If you can’t help but commit to every craft project known to man on Pinterest while waiting for your little one’s arrival, do it in the garage with the door open or on the back porch. If the weather isn’t favorable, a bathroom is an ideal place to paint small projects if you’ve got a window you can open while the exhaust fan is turned on.

The fumes don’t inherently affect the baby. That’s not how this works. Instead the fumes pose a potential risk to the mother, who is carrying the baby. So if mom is rendered unconscious or faints from the fumes, falls and hits her head knocking her out then the baby is deprived of oxygen as long as the mother is. This is where trouble can come into play. For this reason, it may be wise not to tackle these kinds of projects while home alone. In addition, if you’re looking to spruce up the nursery with some pink or blue, have Dad do what he can to help. Absolutely avoid fussing with electrical outlet plate covers and light fixtures when prepping for painting. Also, let Dad do the heavy lifting and put him in charge of painting the ceiling and trim work. Pregnant mommas should not be on ladders, either, so leave the top half of the room to him.

Can You Paint Your Nails While You Are Pregnant?

Nail Polish splatter on white background.Absolutely! No one wants you to go without your favorite French tips during a time in your life where you might not feel your most beautiful. However, it might behoove you to stick to painting your nails yourself and skipping the nail salons, where the fumes can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Is It Safe to Use Acrylic Paint While Pregnant?

Acrylic paint is typically used for small craft projects. Rest assured, if you are accustomed to painting coffee mugs for an online business, your business won’t falter just because you’ve fallen pregnant. Acrylic paint is completely safe to use. In fact, because you’re not likely to be exposed to gallons of it at a time, it just might be the safest option of painting for pregnant women that there is.

Is It Safe to Use Water Based Paint While Pregnant?

It is completely safe to use water based paints while pregnant within moderation. During pregnancy, the placenta acts as a filter to protect the baby from toxins that enter the bloodstream. Water based paints do not have the full load of chemicals in them that latex and oil paints do. They are less likely to permeate the skin and the fumes they put off are far milder in terms of paint. They are completely safe to use during all stages of pregnancy.Yellow paint polish on the ground.

What Is Zero VOC Paint?

VOC’s are nothing more than solvents that are emitted into the air when paint is drying. If you’ve ever painted a room in your house and experienced a headache afterward or felt a migraine coming on after too much time spent in the nail salon, that’s probably what’s happening. While VOC’s aren’t particularly harmful to the growing baby since the placenta does such a great job at filtering out such toxins, they can pose small risks to Mom that make her feel unwell. As such, using zero VOC paint is a great choice.

What Are Some Pregnancy-Safe Paint Brands?

Women who are seeking paint options to use during pregnancy should first evaluate what they need the paint for. If it’s a craft project, paints can be made from ingredients in your household pantry, like school glue and food coloring. If it’s more heavy duty, like painting a bedroom, then latex water-based paints are best. In addition, pregnant women should avoid stripping paint since older paint may contain lead. The leading zero VOC paint on the market is Behr brand.

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