Fumigation may be necessary in extreme cases of pest infestation, such as termites, roaches, fleas or ticks, and can involve sealing off and treating one area of a home or covering the entire house for treatment. Women who are pregnant should not enter a fumigated area until it is deemed safe for entry by a professional exterminator. If headache or nausea occurs upon re-entry, leave the fumigated area immediately and call poison control.
Fumigation, sometimes referred to as tenting, uses pesticides in gaseous form to eradicate an area infested with pests. The length of time the fumigation lasts is dependent upon the size of the area being fumigated and the severity of infestation, but may last from a few hours to up to a week, according to Southern California Pest Control Advice. Formaldehyde, methyl isocyanate and hydrogen cyanide are chemicals commonly used during fumigation.
Women who are planning to become pregnant should avoid contact with fumigation gases prior to pregnancy because of the negative effects it may have on fertility. Additionally, women trying to conceive who are involved with a man who is regularly exposed to fumigation and pesticides should avoid conception during times of high exposure to chemicals used in fumigation. Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association Journal recommends that couples in such circumstances wait three subsequent months before trying to conceive, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Maternal Health Effects
Pregnant women who are exposed to fumigation may experience coughing, difficulty breathing, dizziness, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, body weakness, muscle twitching, blurred vision or convulsions, according to Toronto Public Health. High exposure may result in liver, kidney and lung damage, a variety of cancers and heart problems, in addition to lowered fertility levels and decreased sexual function.
Fetal Health Effects
Fumigation exposure during pregnancy may result in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight, slow fetal growth, birth defects and may raise the risk of developing cancer later in the child's life, according to Toronto Public Health. Also, it can affect the reproductive health of the fetus by delaying sexual maturity, inhibiting the growth of the sex organs and undescended testes, causing changes in steroid hormone production and affecting the immune function.
Women who are pregnant should avoid exposure to fumigation completely and take preventative steps to avoid the need for chemical pest control. Caulk cracks around windows and doorways to keep pests from entering the home, clean frequently and vacuum any crumbs or food that may attract pests. If chemical fumigation is required, remove toys and pillows and protect carpet, rugs and furniture from pesticide exposure. Do not enter the fumigated area until an exterminator has determined it is safe, which is typically at least 12 hours but may be for up to 48 hours, according to Toronto Public Health and Southern California Pest Control Advice.
A mother of three and graduate of the University of Texas, Mary Evett is the online pregnancy expert who contributes to AXS.com and CBS Local. Her passion for DIY projects is showcased monthly on the craft blog, My Crafty Spot. She is the author of the blog, Just Mom Matters.