This month’s JulieG Radio topic is extra special for me and it is a question I get often…
Should I shoot while I am pregnant?
Listen to the Show:
The short answer? Consult with your doctor and your partner to make the right decision for you.
You may just find that your doctor doesn’t have much information on the matter and so for this episode I wanted to share links and resources I have found to be helpful when making my decision about when to stop shooting while expecting. There’s also some good general information for shooters and especially those who have small children.
There are three primary concerns when it comes to pregnant women spending time at the range and the first one really pertains to everyone who shoots.
All shooters should be aware of the dangers of lead exposure. Lead poisoning is tough to detect and people can even seem healthy. Here are some symptoms of lead poisoning.
In adults: high blood pressure, decline in mental functioning, pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities, muscular weakness, headache, abdominal pain, memory loss, mood disorders and in men, reduced sperm count and/or abnormal sperm.
In children: irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation and learning difficulties
There are specific dangers for pregnant women and newborns. Pregnant women with lead poisoning can have miscarriages or premature births. Newborns and babies who are exposed to lead before birth may experience learning difficulties and slowed growth.
When it comes to lead exposure, the government has stepped in to protect pregnant women in the work environment, unborn babies and young children in an attempt to prevent lead poisoning. In 1988 the government passed the Lead Contamination Control Act that authorized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to initiate program efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in the United States. Other government agencies have also issued warnings about lead exposure.
- The Environmental Protection Agency reports how lead exposure can affect the fetus and young children.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a Lead Standard for the work place where physician recommendations for special protective measures or medical removal for an employee who is pregnant or who is planning to conceive are taken into account.
- The CDC warns how lead can cross the placental barrier and how it can affect a developing baby and mom.
Ways to reduce exposure to lead in every day life from the CDC:
- Avoid using and eating products that may contain lead.
- Avoid using containers, cookware, or tableware to store or cook foods or liquids that are not shown to be lead free.
- Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry immediately from children and check the CDC’s Lead Recalls list.
- Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula.
- Shower and change clothes after finishing a task that involves working with lead-based products such as stain glass work, bullet making, or using a firing range.
- Eat and/or drink in areas where lead or lead-containing products are not being handled or processed.
Another question that comes to mind for expecting moms is how will the noise from gun fire affect the little one in the oven. Here are some links that address concerns regarding noise toxicity:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics article, “Noise: A Hazard for the Fetus and Newborn” lists studies that indicate risks to unborn babies exposed to noise.
- Tennessee Tech University has an article called “Shooting While Pregnant: Dangerous or Not” by Elizabeth Kennedy and Fabrice Czarnecki, M.D. that addresses hearing development in an unborn child.
- From The Police Policies Study Council website article by Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki titled “The Pregnant Officer” safe noise levels established by the OSHA are compared to the noise from various types of firearms.
Exposure to Contaminants
The third concern deals with exposure to chemicals and heavy metals. The “Shooting While Pregnant: Dangerous or Not?” piece also addresses cleaning solvents and states “most of the experts agree that pregnant women should not clean their guns, to reduce exposure to chemicals.” Time to get someone else to clean them!
I also had the chance to interview Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki for my book, SHOOT. He is a leading authority on the matter. Aside from being a respected medical doctor, Dr. Czarnecki also serves as Medical Director of Public Safety Medicine of the Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, Chairman of the Police Physicians Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Section of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In SHOOT I asked him to address the dangers of lead, noise and contaminant exposure for both pregnant women and breast-feeding moms. Dr. Czarnecki concludes with the following recommendation:
“I recommend that, during pregnancy, women not shoot firearms at all, unless in self-defense.”
This information is not meant to scare anyone but warnings and recommendations are in place to protect pregnant women and their babies by identifying risks and addressing potential problems. If you’re pregnant you’ll learn all the things you should and shouldn’t do. Just like you’re not supposed to eat sushi or sunny-side-up eggs, there are recommendations out there to limit and even cease shooting activities. There are women who have eaten runny eggs and raw fish who have had no problems and I know several women who have shot throughout their pregnancies and delivered happy and healthy babies.
Pregnant women who are also shooters face the tough decision of if and when to stop shooting. Of course, the best way to reduce exposure to the dangers is to avoid them all together. That means no shooting or hanging out on ranges, especially indoor ranges where exposure to lead, noise and contaminants are greater. If you and your doctor decide that it is safe for you to shoot during a portion of your pregnancy here are some ways to keep this exposure to a minimum.
- Lead-free ammo (note you may still be exposed to other harmful chemicals)
- Use a respirator
- Limit range time exposure
- Use wipes like D-Lead or Hygenall LeadOff to quickly remove lead and other heavy metals from the skin
- Wash all exposed skin with soap and COLD water
- Remove range clothes ASAP and wash separately from the rest of the laundry
- Consider alternative training options like airsoft and a dry fire training regimen
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