Mosquito Repellent: Safe When Pregnant?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 23, 2023
3 min read

In the past, you may not have thought much about applying mosquito repellent before going outside. However, now you’re pregnant, and you’re wondering if mosquito repellent is safe to use during pregnancy.

Topical applications during pregnancy. It’s important for you to understand that anything you apply to your skin is absorbed into your body and can have an effect on your growing baby. This extends to insect repellents, and especially mosquito repellents, that you may apply more often.

The danger of mosquito bites. Mosquitos do not pose any more of a threat to you while you are pregnant than when you aren’t. Mosquitos are sometimes more attracted to pregnant women, leaving you with a higher risk of being bitten.

Mosquitoes carry diseases like West Nile Virus and Zika Virus. These spread easily to humans and can be very dangerous for you and your unborn baby. Zika Virus is proven to cause birth defects in babies whose mothers contracted the disease during pregnancy.

About mosquito repellent. Always read labels before purchasing a mosquito repellent. Look for brands that have ingredients approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The following active ingredients are safe for expectant or breastfeeding mothers:

  • DEET, considered to be the most effective ingredient to prevent mosquito bites
  • Picaridin, a common alternative to DEET, also known as KBR 3023 and icaridin in other countries
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

When you read a label, check for what other insects the spray will repel. Mosquitos are the most common concern, but other bugs can also pose dangers during pregnancy. If another type of insect is more prevalent in your area, purchase a repellent with the correct active ingredient for your concerns.

Keep in mind that there are other types of bug sprays that are not intended for use on your skin. Pesticides are poisonous. They are very dangerous for people in general, and especially for your unborn baby who is still developing.

Exposure to other types of poisonous bug chemicals may cause miscarriage, premature delivery, or birth defects. Read labels carefully before applying anything to your skin.

Applying mosquito repellent. Read the instructions for applying mosquito repellent. Use the repellent on all exposed skin, including your face, ears, neck, hands, ankles, and feet. Be sure to reapply as often needed since the spray becomes less effective with time. This is especially true when you are sweating heavily or swimming. Immersion in water of any kind can rinse the repellent off of your skin.

Preventing bites. If you don’t have mosquito repellent available for use, it’s best to stay indoors. Many moms-to-be opt not to apply mosquito repellent once they know that the chemicals will enter their system. You can wear long-sleeved clothes and cover as much of your exposed skin as possible instead. Make sure your windows and doors have good seals and aren’t left open.

Travel during pregnancy. If you are planning to travel during pregnancy, you should always talk to your doctor first. Let them know where you plan on traveling to see if there are any advisory notices currently active. You may have to postpone travel plans until after you give birth for the safety of your growing baby.

Using sunscreen. When you’re outdoors, sunburn may be another concern in addition to mosquito repellent. You don’t have to choose between applying one or the other. Instead, apply sunscreen first and allow it to dry before applying mosquito repellent.

Keep in mind that the guidelines for mosquito repellent ingredients are applicable to sunscreens as well. Check ingredients and be sure that they are approved for use during pregnancy. Choose the strongest sunscreen you can find to prevent sunburn during long periods of time in the sun.