can you paint while pregnant

Is It Safe for a Pregnant Woman to Paint the Nursery?

Written by: Gabriela Alvarado



Time to read 6 min

As your due date gets closer, you may be figuring out what your vision for your baby’s nursery is. A big part of nursery decor is painting the nursery , but this isn’t always the safest activity for expecting mothers.

Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of paint exposure during pregnancy, and how to minimize them.

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Can a Pregnant Woman Paint?

The anticipation of bringing a new life into the world often comes with an innate desire to prepare a special place for your unborn baby. Painting your baby’s nursery becomes a symbolic and practical part of this preparation. But can a pregnant woman safely take on this task?

While there are varying opinions on the matter, the consensus of healthcare providers is that painting can be done safely during pregnancy if approached with caution

The American Pregnancy Association suggests that general exposure to paint vapors is minimal during these painting projects. However, it’s essential to manage how this exposure occurs to ensure safety.

There are several factors that you need to consider to ensure a safe painting experience during pregnancy, such as type of paint, ventilation, durations of exposure, and the use of protective equipment. Keeping this in mind can help pregnant women engage in painting activities with reduced potential risks to both their health and the health of their developing baby.

Is Paint Exposure Dangerous for the Baby?

Paints contain a variety of harmful chemicals. The level of danger is often related to the amount of paint and the nature of the chemicals, as well as the duration of the exposure. It’s important to understand that even short-term exposure to certain chemicals can be harmful, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, when fetal development happens faster.

pregnant woman painting

Research has shown that exposure to solvents in paint may increase the risk of a miscarriage. Also, according to a cohort study, prolonged and significant exposure to these chemicals could lead to birth defects and learning difficulties as the child grows.

Tips for Painting Safely while Pregnant

Putting safety precautions in place should always be your top priority, especially when you’re painting your baby’s nursery. These are some tips that can help you mitigate the risks associated with this activity:

Opt for Paints with Low VOC Content

Paints low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) are formulated to minimize the emission of these chemicals, which can evaporate into the air at room temperature. These compounds can be harmful when inhaled, so choosing low-VOC options helps decrease the potential risks.

Work in a Well-ventilated Area

Good ventilation is crucial when painting, as it helps disperse the paint fumes and reduce the inhalation of harmful particles. Remember to open windows and use fans when painting to maintain a flow of fresh air throughout the room.

Use Personal Protective Equipment

Using personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and protective clothing, which includes long pants and long-sleeved shirts, can help protect against inhaling paint fumes and coming into direct contact with the paint, which can be absorbed through the skin.

Delegate the Tasks to Others, Especially during the First Trimester

The first trimester is a critical period for fetal development. If possible, consider asking friends, family or professionals to take on the painting project during this period.

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Avoid Paints Containing Lead or Other Toxic Components

Old paints, especially lead-based paints and others containing toxic substances, pose significant health risks and should be avoided entirely. New paint tends to have less toxic chemicals, making it safer for pregnant women and their babies.

Remember to read the labels and safety data sheets to understand the chemical composition of the type of paint you intend to use.

Take Frequent Breaks and Limit the Duration of Exposure

Shorter painting sessions with breaks in between can significantly reduce exposure to paint fumes, decreasing the potential risks.

What Paints Should Pregnant Women Avoid?

Not all paints are made the same, and some of them represent a very significant risk to the wellness of pregnant women. These are:

Oil-based Paints

This type of paint is a big no-no for pregnant women, as it can have a high content of VOCs and other potentially harmful substances. Their use isn’t recommended during pregnancy due to the associated side effects, such as eye irritation, headaches and dizziness.

Lead-based Paints

Exposure to lead is particularly dangerous during pregnancy, as it can affect fetal development. Also, if you use it in your nursery, it can affect your baby’s health later in life. Lead-based paints are banned in many places, but they can still be found in older homes.

Solvent -based Paints and Spray Paints

Similar to oil-based paints, these contain VOCs, such as toluene, that can be dangerous when inhaled. They’re known for their strong fumes and should be avoided entirely during pregnancy.

Paints with Ethers , Biocides and Ethylene Glycol

Some household paints contain these harmful substances, which can pose risks to your developing baby. It’s best to steer clear of any paint that includes these components.

High- VOC Paints

Any type of paint with elevated levels of VOCs should be avoided. Prolonged exposure to these compounds may be harmful to both you and your developing baby’s health.

painting a wall

Safe Paints to Use while Pregnant

If you’ve decided to paint your baby’s nursery while pregnant, you should use a type of paint that helps reduce the risk associated with exposure to chemicals. These are:

Water-based Paints

Water-based paints, such as latex paints, are typically safer than solvent-based options and are easier to clean up, reducing your exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Milk Paints

Milk paints are natural and usually free from harmful chemicals, making them a safer choice for pregnant women looking to paint their nursery or do some DIY projects.

Acrylic Paints

While safer than oil-based paints, acrylic paints can still contain some harmful chemicals. If you’re going to use acrylic paints, you should make sure that they are labeled as non-toxic and safe to use while you’re pregnant.

Zero VOC Paints

Zero VOC paints have minimal volatile organic compound emissions, making them one of the safest options for pregnant women.


Can Paint Fumes Affect My Newborn Baby?

It’s highly unlikely that being around paint fumes will harm your newborn baby, as the risk from most modern household paints is very low. However, there may be a slightly greater risk from solvent-based paints and old paintwork that could contain traces of lead. It’s best to use water-based paints and ensure good ventilation when painting.

Is It Safe to Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room during Pregnancy?

Sleeping in a freshly painted room can expose you to VOCs, which can be harmful, especially during the first trimester. It’s advisable to avoid sleeping in a room that’s been recently painted and ensure that the space is well-ventilated if you have to enter.

Is It Safe to Refinish Furniture while Pregnant?

Refinishing furniture can expose you to fumes from dyes and polyurethane, which are best avoided during pregnancy. If you decide to refinish your furniture during pregnancy, use products withoutsolvents , work in a well-ventilated area, and wear protective equipment.

How Can I Ensure the Nursery Is Safe for My Baby?

Choose zero VOC or non-toxic paints for the nursery to minimize any potential risks. Also, consider using furniture that doesn’t require refinishing. Nurture&’s nursery pieces are made from non-toxic materials with safety and comfort in mind.

By following our tips and choosing the right type of paint, you can create a beautiful space for your little one without compromising your health or the health of your developing baby. Always consult with your OB-GYN for personalized medical advice and to ensure the safest conditions for your pregnancy.

Prepare the nursery you've always dreamed of to welcome your baby. At Nurture&, you can find the furniture you need to make it a reality. For more information on pregnancy and all things nursery check out Our Journal.

L. Elizabeth Forry

Medically reviewed: Gabriela Alvarado

Medical surgeon with certifications from Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Committed to medical excellence, she has conducted several academic research projects that have contributed to the advancement of the field.

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