Pregnant? Why You Should Know About Lead

Along with a new crib and new toys, many expectant parents get their baby's room ready with a new coat of paint. But before you strip the walls of the old paint, you should find out if your home has lead in it.

If you're pregnant, it's just as important for you to stay away from lead as it is to protect your children from it. Exposure to high levels of lead can pass to your baby and lead to miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birthweight and developmental delays in the infant.

As frightening as this may sound, there are things you can do to keep yourself and your baby safe. Begin by determining whether your home has lead in it. Many homes built before 1978 were painted with lead paint, according to the EPA. A lead inspection of your home can tell you whether your house has lead paint. A lead water test can tell you if your water has lead in it. Call your local health department for information. If you rent, your landlord is required by law to tell you if your home has lead in it.

You may wonder about getting tested yourself. Not all women need to be tested for lead levels in their blood, but women with certain risk factors should be tested. Some of the risk factors are listed below: 

  • Drinking water that is known to have been contaminated by lead.

  • Handling lead at work, or living with someone who does.

  • Living in an older home that has lead-based paint. 

  • Living in or having moved from a country where leaded gas is used.

  • Living near a battery recycling plant or a lead mine.

  • Using alternative medicines and herbs that have been contaminated with lead.

  • Using lead-based cosmetics from other countries.

  • Using food storage or preparation ceramic containers that have been coated with lead. 

Reducing the risk

If you find that your home has lead in it, taking these steps while you're pregnant can minimize the risks for you and your baby:

  • Do not sand or scrape paint from walls, woodwork, or furniture. You will inhale the harmful lead dust.

  • If you remodel your home, hire a professional de-leader to take care of the lead. You will have to move out until the work is done and everything has been properly cleaned.

  • Use cold water for drinking and cooking. Run cold water for 15 to 30 seconds before using it to help reduce lead levels. Some pipes contain lead, which can get into your water supply. Lead levels are higher in hot water and in water that has been sitting.

  • Get plenty of iron, calcium, and vitamin C in your diet. These nutrients help prevent lead from being absorbed into your blood. You can get iron by eating meat, beans, fish, and some cereals. Milk and cheese are high in calcium. Oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes are good sources of vitamin C.

  • Do not use arts and crafts supplies with lead in them. These include solder, some glazes for making pottery and jewelry, inks, paints, and enamels.