Black Mold Exposure During Pregnancy: Can It Harm Baby?

Black mold is not something to mess with. But the good news is: Chances are it will not harm an unborn fetus.

Pregnant Woman Looking Out the Window Holding Belly
Photo: Emituu/Shutterstock

There is plenty of excellent advice about keeping a healthy pregnancy, from proper diet and exercise to avoiding toxic chemicals in household cleaners (even cat litter). But one common danger often left out of the conversation is the potential health risk of black mold in your home.

Black mold is not likely to harm you or your pregnancy, but that doesn't mean it is safe in your home. What is black mold, and how likely is it to have a negative health impact on you or your growing baby? Here's what you need to know.

What Is Black Mold?

Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is a slow-growing mold that appears black or greenish and grows on cellulose materials where there is a moisture or water problem. If you have black mold in your home, you'll likely encounter it in your kitchen, bathroom, or basement, where there is the highest risk of water damage. Black mold is covered in slime, which prevents it from drying out and becoming airborne, so the risk of breathing it in is low. But even if you breathe dried black mold, research shows you won't get sick.

If you have black mold in your home, you'll likely find it on these types of surfaces several months after water damage has occurred:

  • Carpets
  • Sheetrock
  • Wallpaper
  • Insulation
  • Wood
  • Cotton or paper

Will Exposure to Black Mold During Pregnancy Harm a Fetus?

No scientific studies show a direct link between exposure to black mold and negative health impacts on a growing fetus or the pregnant parent. However, that does not mean that exposure to black mold is free of health risks. Many people think that black mold causes health problems, but according to research data, no mold or fungi can make people sick. Instead, some molds can create toxins that may trigger specific allergies in people, particularly those with allergies and asthma issues.

One reason there is a lack of research on how black mold can affect pregnancy is that it is unethical to expose a pregnant person to anything that poses a danger to their pregnancy. Instead, researchers can—and have—conducted rigorous studies on how mold affects people who are not pregnant. What they found is that black molds, like other forms of mold and fungi, can create toxins, and those toxins can make people sick.

How sick a person gets largely depends on how they react to allergens. The worst reactions to molds tend to be hayfever-like symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Skin rash such as hives
  • Coughing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Itching in the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Dry, itchy, scaly skin

Animal studies have shown that when pregnant mice are exposed to black mold, there is an increased rate of miscarriage. However, it is not known that a human response would be the same. For that reason, it is advised that pregnant people avoid exposure to any mold, including black mold.

What To Do if You Find Black Mold in Your Home

If you believe you have a mold problem in your home, the first step is to locate it and identify it. Make sure you know what type of mold you're dealing with. Since black mold stems from water damage or moist areas, do what you can to fix leaky pipes or faucets, or seal humid areas like dirt floor basements, for example. You may need to call a professional plumber to help with some of these fixes.

Toss things with black mold

Black mold can be frustrating to get rid of. And because of the risk of getting sick, it is important to get rid of all of it to prevent it from growing back. Therefore, it is wise to throw away as much as possible, especially if the mold is on carpets, clothing, toys, books, furniture, and other things you are likely to touch.

Call a professional cleaner

Cleaning black mold may not be something you can do easily or safely, especially if you are pregnant. In that case, it might be best to call a professional cleaner who can remove the mold problem once and for all. Since molds can be toxic and cause illness, it is best to choose a professional cleaning company that has been certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Companies that are certified by IICRC have the proper training and equipment to clean your home thoroughly.

Make a DIY mold cleaner

For some patches, like on bathroom tiles or other isolated areas, you can clean the mold by making your own spray or using household cleaners. Here are a few to consider:

  • Chemical mold and mildew removers
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Vinegar (not bleach)
  • Dish detergent

If you're concerned about using harsh chemicals to clean mold in your home, you can effectively kill black mold by mixing a solution of water and baking soda. For more information on how to handle mold in your home, you can read up on safety and clean-up efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Bottom Line

Black mold is not likely to adversely affect your pregnancy, however it can make you and your family sick. Mold is not considered safe and should be removed from your home. That said, if you have been exposed to mold, you can put your mind at ease by calling your doctor and bringing up any concerns. To prevent black mold from forming in your home, do an inspection to check for high moisture areas, leaky pipes and faucets, or any other water damage and don't be afraid to call a professional cleaner for help.

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