Over the last few decades, lead paint regulations have become more severe and less lenient. The government’s concerns are focused mainly on young children, specifically under 6 years old, as they are the most susceptible to becoming poisoned and permanently effected. What is not discussed as often, however, is the impact that lead exposure has on pregnant mothers and their unborn children. When pregnant mothers are exposed to lead, hypertension or preeclampsia can occur. This is not only dangerous for the mother, but it can also cause complications for the child. As the exposure rate increases, the negative effects do as well. A child still in utero can become severely impaired if the mother comes in contact with lead. Side effects could include premature birth, damage to the child’s brain, kidneys and nervous system, learning and behavioral problems, lowered IQ, and worst case scenario, miscarriage. Many mothers don’t realize they are exposing their babies to lead, as lead dust is undetectable and easily inhaled. Roughly 90% of all existing lead poisoning cases were caused by the inhalation of lead dust as opposed to lead paint chip ingestion. While everyone should be cautious, pregnant women should be proactive in preventing any exposure. All expecting mothers should receive guidance from their doctor on preventative steps to avoid lead poisoning. Health care professionals should also assess whether or not the mother is in danger of high levels of lead exposure. When a woman is found to have a high blood lead level, it is then beneficial to receive further risk reduction counseling. High Blood Lead Levels are especially dangerous because there is currently no treatment available for women during pregnancy. There are many ways to lower your risk of lead exposure if you are living in a home that contains lead paint, but once your child is born, it will have to be treated or removed permanently.

Below is a table indicating the preventative measures you should take depending on the severity of your Blood Lead Level. Even though no follow up testing is needed for a Blood Lead Level under 5 µg/dL,all efforts to lower your Blood Lead Level should be taken. As discovered by the CDC in 2012, there is now NO safe level of lead in a child’s blood, and the severity of the damages the unborn child will suffer is unpredictable.



Table 1. Frequency of Maternal Blood Lead Follow-up Testing During Pregnancy
Venous Blood
Lead Level*
          Perform Follow-up Test(s)

Less than 5  


            -None (no follow-up testing is indicated)


-Within 1 month

-Obtain a maternal blood lead level‡ or cord blood lead level at delivery


-Within 1 month and then every 2–3 months

-Obtain a maternal blood lead level‡ or cord blood lead level at delivery

-More frequent testing may be indicated based on risk factors


 -Within 1–4 weeks and then every month

 -Obtain a maternal blood lead level‡ or cord blood lead level at delivery

45 or more

-Within 24 hours and then at frequent intervals depending on clinical interventions and trend in blood lead levels

-Consultation with a clinician experienced in the management of pregnant women with blood lead levels in this range is strongly advised

-Obtain a maternal blood lead level or cord blood lead level at delivery

*Venous blood sample is recommended for maternal blood lead testing.-The higher the blood lead level on the screening test, the more urgent the need for confirmatory testing.-If possible, obtain a maternal blood lead level before delivery because blood lead levels tend to increase over the course of pregnancy.Modified from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidelines for the identification and management of lead exposure in pregnant and lactating women. Atlanta (GA): CDC; 2010. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/publications/leadandpregnancy2010.pdf. Retrieved March 7, 2012.