How not to become a mosquito snack during pregnancy

April 07, 2014 12:00 AM by

The weather's finally starting to warm up, and while that means you have plenty more options to show off your bump in chic maternity clothes, it also means bugs are going to enter the equation again. The bees and butterflies might be nice, but mosquitoes, green heads and deer flies are less than ideal. The worst part? Studies have shown that pregnant women are the preferred snack of many mosquitoes. So why is this true, and how can you prevent yourself from becoming mosquito bait this spring and summer during your pregnancy?

What is it about pregnant women?
There are all kinds of factors at play when it comes to why mosquitoes prefer some people over others. Sometimes it's because of blood type (the pests like type O more than A or B), sometimes it has to do with how much carbon dioxide you breathe out, sometimes it's the type of bacteria on your skin and sometimes it's because you just drank a bottle of beer (for some reason they like it). Clothing color and genetics can also play a role. But what is it about pregnant women that gets these bloodsuckers in a frenzy?

Several studies have found that pregnant women are likely to attract twice as many mosquito bites than others. This is likely because pregnant women exhale about 21 percent more carbon dioxide than people who aren't pregnant. This probably has to do with the fact that pregnant women are breathing harder than they usually do when they're carrying extra weight around. Pregnant women are also about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, than women who aren't pregnant, and warm body temperatures are a cue for mosquitoes to land and bite. The extra body heat can also release more volatile substances from the skin, which can make pregnant women more easily detected by mosquitoes.

What can you do?
Mosquitoes aren't any more dangerous to pregnant women than they are to everyone else, but there's still some danger of contraction mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile. Therefore, it's always a good idea to protect yourself from the insects, and twice as important if you're getting ready for baby. Here are some tips for keeping the bugs at bay.

  • Choose clothing color wisely. Mosquitos that bite during the day prefer dark clothing, while those out at night prefer colors that make you stand out, like red. Plan your outfit carefully if you'll be outside in an area that you think might be popular for mosquitoes.
  • Cover up. Don't put yourself at risk by wearing a sleeveless shirt, shorts or a short skirt when mosquitoes are around. Cover up with sleeves and pants if possible. Keep in mind that tight clothing might not be the best defense, since mosquitoes can bite right through it. Clothes with a looser fit will work better.
  • Use repellents in the surrounding area. If you're hanging around outside for long periods of time, like at a backyard party, surround the area with products that deter mosquitoes. Citronella candles, tiki torches and even smoke from a fire pit can help. There are many mosquito-repelling products that you can find at hardware stores or outdoor adventure gear shops.
  • Apply insect repellent to yourself. Choose a bug repellent that's been tested and registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If it's been registered, there should be a registration number listed above the ingredients. Products that have DEET should be effective and safe for pregnant women in reasonable amounts, but you may want to talk to your health care provider for recommendations. Once your baby's born, repellents that contain DEET should generally be avoided – talk to your child's pediatrician for more information.

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