Shooting is a perishable skill. If you don’t practice, you can lose your proficiency. This is particularly important to competitors, police officers and concealed carry permit holders. Or for anyone else who takes their target shooting seriously. Nine months is a long time to go without training, but is it safe to shoot while you’re pregnant?
Pregnant women get a ton of advice—from doctors, friends, mothers, mother in laws, to even people on the street. I’ve heard don’t drink caffeine, don’t dye your hair, don’t get a tattoo, don’t clean the cat box, and so on. Much of the advice a pregnant woman gets, especially from her doctor, is true. Some advice, however is old wives’ tales passed down from generation to generation. Dying your hair or getting a tattoo is generally ill advised because there is inconclusive evidence that the chemicals in either harm the fetus. This goes for shooting, too.
There is no hard and fast evidence either way that shooting will harm the fetus. The two main concerns of shooting a gun while pregnant are the lead levels and the noise.
Every time you fire a gun, the powder in the ammunition releases gas. This powder may contain lead. These fine particles land on your hands, arms, face, and in your hair. The gas also lingers in the air and you inhale it. Lead-based bullets will also expose you to lead content. Regardless if you are a shooter or not, we all have low-levels of lead in our bodies. Even lipstick contains lead. Low-levels are mainly harmless. We do know that the mother transfers lead exposure to her unborn child. However, doctors do not know what are safe levels of lead for a fetus. Exposure to lead has proven to cause decreased birth weight in babies, affect the baby’s head circumference, cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and pre-eclampisa.
Most doctors, though, will give you the go-ahead to shoot. Just take precautions and you should be safe:
- Use lead-free ammunition
- Shoot at an outdoor range
- Wearing a face mask
- Don’t handle lead ammunition
- Do not clean the guns after (Let someone else do it.)
- Wash your arms, face, and hands well with cold water right after shooting and always before touching your face.
- Wear shooting gloves
I have heard stories of pregnant women going to the shooting range and their baby reacting to the noise by kicking and moving so much that they had to leave. Your baby will start responding to sound as early as 16 weeks into pregnancy and at 24 weeks, the baby’s cochlea is completely developed. Studies have shown that continuous loud noise may be harmful to a fetus. In women that were exposed to a continuous loud noise at 80dB daily for 8 hours—a normal work shift—babies were born with hearing loss, decreased birth weight and even suffered a risk of early birth. A gunshot is 140dB. Repeated exposure for long periods can damage a baby’s hearing. However, as long as you feel your baby can tolerate a little range time, you and baby should be fine. Some doctors advise to avoid shooting during the third trimester of your pregnancy. If you want to be extra cautious, shoot .22 Long Rifle or use a suppressor.
My advice is to err on the side of caution; however, I know that competitors and women in law enforcement must continue to train and practice. You can always dry fire at home or use a laser-training target. Speak to your doctor about any shooting-while-pregnant concerns you may have.
What advice have you heard regarding shooting while pregnant? Share it with us in the comment section.