Lead & Pregnancy

Prevent lead poisoning. Start now.

Lead can pass from a pregnant woman’s placenta to her unborn baby or through breast milk while breastfeeding. If you had lead poisoning when you were younger, you may still have lead in your body.




Lead is extremely harmful for developing nervous systems.

Too much lead in the body can put you at risk for miscarriage or premature delivery. Lead can damage your baby’s brain, kidneys, and nervous systems. and cause your child to have learning or behavior problems.

effects of lead on unborn baby

Are you at risk for lead poisoning?

You and your family may be more likely to have lead in your bodies if:

    • You live or work in an older, pre-1978 home or apartment that has had renovation or repair work done.
    • You work with or live with someone who works with lead, such as auto repair, construction, home renovation, mining, firearms, etc.
    • You have or live with someone who has a hobby that involves lead, like shooting, ceramics, jewelry, etc.
    • You were born, or have spent any time outside of, the United States.
    • You use spices, foods, herbal products or supplements that may contain lead, such as Greta or Azarcon.
    • You use imported ceramics to cook and prepare food and drink.
    • You use imported eye cosmetics like kohl or surma.
    • You eat nonfood items, like clay or dirt. This is called pica.

If you can answer “yes” or “don’t know” to any of these risks, it is time to ask for a blood lead test.

Now is the time to keep your baby safe.

pregnant peace

Following these guidelines can help you and your baby prevent lead poisoning.

Ask your doctor about a lead test.

  • A blood lead test is the only way to know if you have lead in your body.

Talk to your doctor

  • Tell your doctor of any recent or past exposure to lead.
  • Talk to your doctor before using herbal medicines and traditional remedies or cosmetics.
  • Tell your provider if you eat any nonfood items or pica.

Watch out for lead in your home

  • Stay away from work areas during repair or remodeling if your house was built before 1978.

    • Lead paint in homes built before 1978 may chip or peel and make dust. Cleaning, painting, or remodeling in a room with lead paint can hurt you and you baby.
  • Keep floors, porches, windows, window sills and other flat surfaces clean from dust. Use these wet cleaning techniques.
  • If you suspect your home may have lead, have your home inspected. Paint chips, water and soil can be tested for lead. Your local health department may be able to help you.
    • If you think you have lead in your drinking water, use bottled or filtered water for cooking and drinking. If you use tap water, use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Water from cold-water pipes has less lead than water from hot-water pipes. Run cold tap water for 1 to 2 minutes before using it. Fill containers with cold tap water to use later.

Avoid certain jobs or hobbies

  • If you work or have worked with or around lead, it is important to be extra careful. Talk to your boss about changing job responsibilities to help keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy.
  • Have all household members who are exposed to lead through a hobby or job (construction, automotive, painting, pottery making) shower after working with lead and wash work clothes separately from regular laundry.

Store and cook food properly

  • Some dishes and cookware may contain lead. Avoid using imported cookware, pottery, and crystal for preparing or eating food. Always check the product label to make sure your dishes are safe for cooking and eating.

Eat a healthy diet

  • Eat foods high in iron, calcium and vitamin C such as fish, beans, milk, yogurt, oranges and leafy green vegetables. These foods may help protect you and your unborn baby.
  • Use caution when eating imported candies, spices, and other foods.
  • Avoid eating non-food items, (such as soil, clay, plaster, paint chips and pottery).

Visit our Preventing Lead Poisoning page for more details on general healthy habits, cleaning tips, and proper nutrition to keep you and your child safe from lead poisoning.