Pregnant Women

Lead can pass from a mother to her unborn baby.  The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable. Now is the time to keep your baby safe from lead poisoning.

Too much lead in your body can:

  • Put you at risk for miscarriage
  • Cause your baby to be born too early or too small
  • Hurt your baby’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Cause your child to have learning or behavior problems

Lead can be found in:

  • Paint and dust in older homes, especially dust from renovation or repairs
  • Candy, cosmetic make up, glazed pots, and traditional medicines made in other countries
  • Work such as auto refinishing, construction, and plumbing
  • Soil and tap water

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Watch out for lead in your home.
    Most lead comes from paint in older homes. When old paint cracks and peels, it makes dangerous chips and dust. The dust is so small you cannot see it. You can breathe in lead dust and not even know it.  Home repairs and renovations including sanding or scraping paint can make dangerous lead dust. You should not be in the house while someone is removing lead paint or cleaning up after renovations.
  2. Avoid certain jobs or hobbies.
    Some jobs or hobbies involve exposure to lead. Such work includes construction and renovation or repair of older homes, battery manufacturing or recycling, and other jobs. If a household member works with lead, avoid lead dust taken home on clothes, shoes, or tools from the job site.  Have the household member change into clean clothing before coming home. Keep work shoes outside and wash all work clothes separately from the rest of the family.
  3. Talk to your doctor.
    Talk to your doctor about any medicines or vitamins you are taking. Some traditional home remedies and dietary supplements may contain small amounts of lead. It is also important to tell your doctor about any cravings you may have, such as eating dirt or clay that may contain lead.
  4. Avoid certain foods and cosmetics.
    Use caution when eating anything brought into the U.S. by travelers from other countries because certain candies, spices, and other foods contain small amounts of lead.
  5. Store and serve food properly.
    Some dishes and serving containers may contain lead. It is important to cook, serve, and store your food properly.
    • Avoid using imported lead-glazed ceramic pottery
    • Avoid using pewter or brass containers or utensils
    • Avoid using leaded crystal to serve or store beverages
  6. Eat foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C.
    These foods help protect you and your unborn baby.
    • Calcium in milk, yogurt, cheese, and green leafy vegetables like spinach
    • Iron in lean red meat, beans, cereals, and spinach
    • Vitamin C in oranges, green and red peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and juices

More Information

Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Lead Exposure in Pregnant and Lactating Women pdf icon[PDF – 3.66 MB]

  • These recommendations for health care providers and public health professionals are based on scientific data and practical considerations regarding preventing lead exposure during pregnancy, assessment and blood lead testing during pregnancy, medical and environmental management to reduce fetal exposure, breastfeeding, and follow up for infants exposed to lead.

Breastfeeding and Environmental Exposures to Lead – information and guidance on how mothers can protect their child from lead exposure during pregnancy and lactation.

Parents and Caregivers – information and guidance on how to protect yourself and your family from the effects of lead exposure.