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How Pesticides Affect Fetal Development

It is extremely important for pregnant women to be extra careful with their health during pregnancy. There are a lot of substances, some of which can be easily found at home, that can affect a growing fetus. Many of these things don’t even affect the mother’s health; however, these hugely influence the life and development of the baby inside her. An example of a harmful substance is a pesticide.

Pesticides are generally chemicals that are regularly used in killing common household pests. But an expectant mother’s exposure to these dangerous substances could undermine the safety of her fetus. Here are some of the possible effects of pesticides on a fetus

1. Increased possibility of premature birth

It’s more likely for women who have been regularly exposed to common household pesticides to give birth earlier than their due dates. Babies who are born prematurely have weaker and less developed bodily systems, and transitioning from life in the womb to life out of the womb is more stressful to them. Therefore, there is a need for premature babies to be incubated, which can stress the baby, the mother, and the family aside from it adding to the medical bill. Most importantly, preterm birth also plays a huge factor in infant mortality.

2. Small for gestational age fetus

The size and weight of a baby are vital factors that help doctors in monitoring and evaluating fetal health. If a fetus is exposed to harmful chemicals through his mother, then it’s more likely for him to be small for gestational age. This is also known as intrauterine growth restriction.

Common problems of SGA fetuses include –

  • hypothermia or low body temperature;
  • hypoglycemia or low blood sugar;
  • as well as polycythemia or increased red blood cells.
carbon monoxide poisoning pregnancy

3. Risks of health defects

Babies who are heavily exposed to dangerous chemicals are also more prone to developing defects, like cleft lip and palate, heart and limb defects, as well as neural tube defects, to name a few. Even mothers who don’t actually use pesticides but who live near or in places where pesticides are often used put their babies at risk for these kinds of physical defects. However, the risk is lower than those who are actually regularly exposed to more concentrated levels of dangerous chemicals. 

4. How to Avoid Exposure

1. All pregnant women must avoid handling or exposing themselves to any type of pesticide, including natural or organic chemicals. If you are living in an area that is near agricultural land, it would be better for you and your baby to find a place where you can temporarily stay so that you’re both away from fumes and other harmful vapours. Also, have someone else apply pesticides if there is a real need to do so.

2. In the case of exposure, don’t panic. Consult your doctor who will probably ask about how long you’ve been exposed and how concentrated was the chemical. The exposure time and the concentration of the pesticide are significant factors that help in determining whether or not the baby’s health was put at risk.

3. Don’t stay in an area where a pesticide treatment is being done. Increase ventilation too by opening doors and windows and turning on the fan. Also, have someone clean the surfaces, as well as utensils and other personal possessions, after treatment.

5. When the symptoms become even worse:

1) People like you can even experience memory loss through this poisoning
2) It is also possible to start experiencing coordination problems
3) This poisoning can also lead to serious confusion.

Midwife sonographer facilitated

Consultant Led, Centre of Medical Excellence 


All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.