Female Shooters

Shooting While Pregnant: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Woman shooting handgun

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 while pregnant are the lead levels and the noise.

Lead and Shooting While Pregnant

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-eclampsia.

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
  • Wear 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
woman shooting while pregnant
Most doctors will give you the go-ahead to shoot. Just take precautions and you should be safe.

Noise and Shooting While Pregnant

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 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.

Female competition shooter shooting handgun
We know shooting is a perishable skill and practice is important.

Conclusion: Shooting While Pregnant

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 of the concerns you may have about shooting while pregnant.

What advice have you heard regarding shooting while pregnant? Share it with us in the comment section.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March of 2013. It has been updated for clarity and accuracy.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Shooting a box of 20 or even 50, IMO, wouldn’t release enough lead for anything. You can always be chelated for that if you care enough. However, noise is another thing all together. They can hear the husband whisper a few inches from the womb. Shooting something larger than a .22 would make too much noise IMO. A cop shooting a .40 will be hurting her child. The noise is one thing, but PTSD is also involved. Random gunshots would have to cause emotional harm.

  2. There are so many things a pregnant women needs to be cognizant of. Shooting should be one of them. While my wife was pregnant with both of our children, there were several things that she did not do. She doesn’t shoot, but if she did, that would definitely have been one of them!!! Now days, there are so many other options to keep up with drills and such. There is even a true size, weight, and handling Glock 17 and 19 CO2 BB/Pellet gun. There are even full auto AR-15’s to play with that are true weight and everything. I have a couple of them. There are even laser drills.

    I am not sure what I think about supression. I wouldn’t do that either. I would NOT even think of risking my child’s hearing or anything else for that matter during pregnancy. Hire a dang security guard if you are that concerned about safety while pregnant. Besides, we all know there is no time to think during a situation. So do your drills and you will be fine. If there is a situation, and you do have to use your weapon, it’s gonna be a one and done. Unless you’re a drug dealer or something. Think about this: Your kid’s overall wellbeing is at stake.

  3. When my daughter became pregnant, the military moved her to a position that didn’t require handling lead. Why risk anything during the nine very short months that are crucial to your baby’s entire future? I would temporarily or permanently give up a career, interest or hobby that posed a remote threat that I could try to avoid. Lead is dangerous, but I don’t think pregnant women should run from guns and ammo like they are toxic threats that can’t be touched. I’m glad to have a gun in case I need it, and that I know how and when to use it. If shooting was a big part of my life, I’d give it up for a while like so many other things that should be avoided while pregnant. Nine months is no time at all! Lead free ammo is available, but I would still be concerned about the noise. I agree with JSW when it comes to doubt. Always trust your gut.

  4. Dear poster above tattoos will not cause shock or stress that will harm baby. They say no because of possible infection And longer healing time, also that tattoo can be altered by ur hormones..

    Secondly asking ur doctor about shooting is ok and will not put some secrete red dot on ur medical documents that the government is goons get you!! Haha

    Anyways this article was very helpful thank you

  5. Getting a tattoo while pregnant is dangerous in many ways. There is always a chance of infection with an open wound. The tattoo itself is painfull and can cause a fair amount of stress and or shock. Please do not get tattooed while pregnant. It would be rare but you could endanger your unborn child’s life.

  6. I would like to see citations. Where is the research and documentation? Shooting is certainly a perishable skill, but why not shoot air guns or bows? I would rather minimize all exposure and potential hearing damage. Nine months may seem like a long time to be off the range, but when it comes time for me to have children, in the end I think it will be worth it.

  7. I’m pretty sure the tattoo prohibition comes from a much earlier age, and referred to hazards like hepatitis.

  8. Yeah, maybe so. On the other hand, lots of women have in the past, and there certainly isn’t any concerns from recoil, or anything like that. You’d probably be more in danger of contracting something from handling wild game meat, or something after shooting. Lead poisoning shouldn’t be of any concern, unless you’re handling lots of wheel weights casting bullets, or firing the gun inside the house where it’s poorly ventelated. I don’t any more, but used to shoot big flies two rooms away on the screen door, with an old Colt Single Action Army when I was 10 or 11 years old. Just prime the shells, and get a sheet of wax about 3/16″ thick, and cut ’em out like cookie cutters with the primed shells. No need to re-size, and virtually no recoil. They just barely imprint the screen, but loads of fun. People are too scared of everything anymore. There are many things people should be very concerned about but aren’t in this world, but being pregnant and shooting guns isn’t one of them. Wear disposable gloves, and don’t shoot in un-ventilated ares, and make lots of memories and experience to share with that baby later on.

  9. Good stuff to consider. My wife and I enjoyed the article. Although I’m not sure about sharing the matter with your doctor since anything you discuss becomes a permanent part of your record. A record that will be shared with other government agency’s once Obamacare is fully instituted.

  10. I went shooting (12 gauge shot gun) when I was in my second trimester and had no issues. We made sure not to stay for very long and when it was not my turn in the range (outdoor) I stayed far away from the guns to keep the noise down. I washed my hands and face directly afterward too. My baby hears just fine. My doctor said not to do it in the 3rd trimester at all and only sparingly in the second.

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