Blood Lead Levels

Lead is a toxin that can be passed through the placenta to your baby, and it’s particularly dangerous to your baby’s developing nervous system. Let’s look at ways to lower your risk of lead exposure during pregnancy.  

How can I reduce my exposure to lead? 

  • If you live in an older home that may contain lead-based paint, make sure that any remodeling projects are done safely to reduce the chances of exposure.  
  • If you get your drinking water from a well, or if your home might have lead pipes, get your water tested regularly for contaminants, including lead.  
  • Eat regularly, as lead from the environment is absorbed better and retained in your body longer when your stomach is empty.  
  • Take your prenatal vitamins, and make sure you get plenty of calcium, zinc, iron and vitamins C, D and E. 

Should I be tested for lead? 

You should ask your health care team to test the amount of lead in your blood if you have any of these risk factors: 

  • Your job requires you to work around lead, or you have a hobby that may expose you to lead (like staining glass or making jewelry). 
  • You have recently immigrated from an area known for lead contamination. 
  • You live near a source of lead, such as a mine, smelter, or recycling facility. 
  • You have a condition called pica, in which you feel the need to eat non-food items. 
  • You live with someone who works around lead. 
  • Your soil, water or food may be contaminated with lead. 
  • You have used cosmetics or beauty products that contain lead. 
  • You have cooked, stored or eaten food in glazed pottery that could contain lead. 

What could lead do to my baby? 

Very high levels of lead can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. Lower amounts are known to cause other problems, such as: 

  • Low birth weight 
  • Premature labor and delivery 
  • Learning and behavior problems for your baby 
  • Major birth defects 

For more information about staying away from lead, visit the BayCare Health Library.