Painting while Pregnant

After spotting those two pink lines on your pregnancy test, you may already have started planning the nursery decorations for your little munchkin to arrive. If you are all set to wield the brush to give the new member’s room a new look, or maybe to paint your bedroom or cabinet or even renovate your fences/deck a bit, keep this idea on hold as painting during pregnancy may not be that safe.

Painting While Pregnant

Can you paint while pregnant

Early pregnancy: As paints, particularly solvent-based ones, have harmful chemicals, it is better to avoid painting in the first trimester. Since the fetus’ organs develop during this time, even a small risk can pose a big problem in the long run [11].

Late second and third: Since the fetal development is almost complete in late pregnancy, especially the last trimester, the baby is at a lesser risk from paint fumes. However, it is still safe to stay away from painting.

The best option would be to have your husband or anyone else do the task while you take the role of a delighted spectator.

If your home was built prior to the 1980s, make sure that the paint removal is done by an expert and you are not around at that time, as most paints contained lead during those times, exposure to which might cause miscarriage or developmental delay in the baby [1, 5].

Is it safe to paint while pregnant: Research evidence

There have not been consistent results on how harmful painting can be during pregnancy as it is hard to measure the level of exposure [4]. However, many findings have mentioned that chemical solvents present in most paints, along with their fumes, can be bad for the unborn baby.

The US Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant women to stay away from newly painted rooms for about two days after the task is completed [5]. A study highlighted that most babies born to mothers who were exposed to paint fumes during the first trimester run high risks of congenital anomalies [9].

Another finding shows that benzene, which is found in little amounts in solvent-based paints, may increase the risk of childhood ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) [13].

It has also been shown that women who came in contact with chemical solvents through painting, furniture stripping or car repairing over an extended period were at an increased risk of giving birth to babies having gastroschisis where the intestine develops outside the walls of the abdomen [3].

Chemical solvents (higher in oil-based paints than water based ones), might even lead to miscarriage, birth defects and learning disability [3, 9].


Which paints are safe to use during pregnancy

Choice of paints

Can you use

What makes  it safe/unsafe

Water-based/ emulsion/ latex Yes Less chemical solvent and low VOC volatile oil compounds [3,7]
Acrylic/Water paints Yes Less chemical solvent and VOC, to be used while doing any artwork
Oil-based/Paint thinners No High in chemical solvents [1,3]
Lead-based No Possibilities of harming your fetus or causing developmental delays in the infant [1]
Spray Paint No The mist created by it in the air would be harmful when inhaled [10].
Chalk paint Preferably No Because of its toxic contents
Wax based (Encaustic)  No Fumes obtained from heating it may prove toxic for the baby [8]

Protect yourself from latex/acrylic paint fumes while painting your nursery or home


  • Opt for paints with zero or low VOC (volatile oil compounds) [4].
  • Keep the windows and doors open for proper ventilation to avoid inhaling the fumes [3].
  • Wear a respirator or ventilator mask having filters to stay protected from fumes [15].
  • Dress in trousers, shirts with long sleeves and gloves to keep harmful chemicals off your skin [1].
  • Go away from the area of painting at the earliest in case you feel unwell, encountering symptoms such as nausea, dizziness or a headache [4].


  • Remain in the place of work for long.
  • Eat or drink in the area where you are working to avoid ingestion of harmful chemicals that may get transferred through the food [3].
  • Sleep in a recently painted room.
  • Involve in scraping or sanding.

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