Mosquito repellents in pregnancy: are they safe for mother and baby?

Can you use mosquito repellents during pregnancy? What are the products to prefer and which ones to avoid and how to use them correctly?

Every year, with the arrival of the warm season, the question of how to protect our skin from mosquitoes arises . There are many repellents on the market to defend against these insects, but which products are really safe during pregnancy and how should they be used? Let’s find out together!

Mosquito repellents in pregnancy: chemical repellents

The chemical repellents most used to defend the skin from mosquito bites are:

  • DEET (diethyl-m-toluamide, not to be confused with DDT)
  • picaridin or icaridin _
  • IR3535 (ethyl butyl acetylaminopropionate)
  • PMD (P-menthane-3,8-diol, also called paramatandiol, mentoglycol or Citrodiol) .

The AIFA guidelines on the correct use of medicines during pregnancy advise not to apply DEET-based products to the skin in areas where there is no risk of malaria (such as in Italy for example) and to prefer instead picaridin and PMDs, which show lower toxicity.

On the other hand, it should be emphasized that most scientific studies have documented the absence of a correlation between the use of DEET in pregnancy and an increased risk of fetal malformations.

However, most experts agree not to use products containing more than 20% DEET during pregnancy .

Higher concentrations of DEET are instead recommended in case of travel to countries where there is a risk of infections transmitted by insects, such as the aforementioned malaria and the Zika virus , which can have very serious consequences on the fetus. However, it should be emphasized that going to these risk areas is highly discouraged for pregnant women.

Mosquito repellents in pregnancy: natural repellents

As an alternative to chemical repellents, there are various mosquito repellent products for the skin based on plant extracts on the market , which are considered real Medical Surgical Devices (PMC), such as:

  • eucalyptus (for example lemon eucalyptus oil, called OLE, from which PMD is synthesized )
  • the geraniol

Finally, on the market it is possible to find milder repellents based on essential and vegetable oils that are particularly unwelcome to mosquitoes, such as:

  • the lemongrass
  • the geranium
  • the lavender
  • the bergamot
  • neem oil

But be careful: these oils should only be used in special formulations and NEVER pure on the skin , because they are potentially irritating and allergenic .

Furthermore, compared to the other natural and chemical repellents we have mentioned, these products are not considered medical-surgical aids, because they offer a shorter duration of protection, but due to their characteristics they can also be used in children under 2 years of age .

Mosquito repellents in pregnancy: how to use them correctly

Before using a mosquito repellent during pregnancy, it is important to take some important precautions for correct application.

  • Read the product label carefully to find out the ingredients used and the duration of the anti-mosquito protection (the higher the concentration of the product, the longer the effect will last). More generally, whatever repellent you use, the most important thing is to follow the recommendations on the packaging .
  • Apply mosquito repellent only to exposed skin and/or clothing , but not under clothing. Again, it’s crucial that you stick to the directions on the label.
  • Be careful not to overdo the quantity: an excess of product does not guarantee longer or more effective protection.
  • It is forbidden to use repellents on irritated skin, wounds or cuts.
  • Do not apply to eyes and mouth and use sparingly around the ears.
  • If you use mosquito sprays , avoid spraying the product directly on the face and apply it with your hands instead. Alternatively, it is advisable to use a spreadable formulation or wipes/sponges impregnated with repellent (which however allow a limited release of the product).
  • If sunscreen is required , apply the product BEFORE the mosquito repellent and after a waiting time of about 30 minutes . On the other hand, it is better to avoid dual action formulations (sunscreen + repellent).
  • After applying the anti-mosquito, wash your hands thoroughly with soap to avoid accidentally bringing the product into your mouth.
  • When the insect protection action is no longer needed, remove the repellent residues with soap and water . If you have used mosquito spray on your clothes, wash them before wearing them again.
  • In case of allergic reactions , immediately wash the area on which the product has been applied and consult a doctor  (bring the repellent used with you).

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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