Can you shoot a gun while pregnant? Popular wisdom often says no, citing concerns about exposure to the lead in the bullets by a pregnant woman. However, popular wisdom is often incorrect.
Let’s address some of the myths and misconceptions about gun ownership by pregnant and nursing women. We'll also outline steps you can take to protect yourself and your baby from the potential risks that come with gun usage by pregnant women.
Let's Get Started About FAQs of Can You Shoot a Gun While Pregnant?
01. Why are there concerns about pregnant women shooting guns?
There are two main health concerns that pregnant women need to be aware of. One is the noise level, though the loud noise can damage one’s hearing whether you’re a pregnant woman or a man.
Fortunately, the loud noise from the gun isn’t going to harm your growing child’s hearing until you’re almost ready to give birth.
The other concern is heavy metal exposure.
In a world where we tell women not to clean up broken light bulbs due to mercury exposure and suggest waiting to get your hair dyed, the heavy metal residue created by guns is a legitimate concern.
However, it doesn’t preclude a pregnant woman from using or even cleaning a gun.
02. When do I need to change my shooting habits to protect my child’s hearing?
NIOSH says that pregnant women should stay away from all sounds over 115 decibels. The average .22 caliber gun will produce a noise at least that loud.
Shotguns can create a noise as loud as 175 decibels. Most guns put out at least 140 decibels. You can dampen that by using a suppressor, but its ability to get the noise level down depends on the type of gun.
For example, a .22 long rifle is in the tolerable range, so you wouldn’t need a suppressor if you’re concerned about protecting your child’s hearing.
Avoid shooting when you're past the 24 weeks
This is why you should avoid shooting a shotgun once you’re past the 24 week mark, unless your life is in danger. Consider carrying your firearm for personal protection throughout the pregnancy, because you are at greater risk if assaulted when you’re pregnant than if you weren’t.
Repeated gunshots may damage your unborn child’s hearing, but that is meaningless if you’re killed by a mugger. This is in sharp contrast to those who say pregnant women shouldn’t handle guns at all past the 13 week mark due to the potential harm caused by heavy metal exposure.
03. What is the concern about heavy metals?
Lead poisoning is a serious health concern. This is true for both men and women, but unborn children are at greater risk. While shooting a gun exposes you to traces of lead, the same is true if you’re drinking water out of old water pipes or handling lead-acid batteries.
But we need to admit that the average cartridge is roughly one third lead dioxide and lead styphnate. Every time you shoot the gun, tiny lead particles enter the air. It could be inhaled by the shooter or absorbed through the skin.
Gun smokes cause nerve disorders
Yes, the smell of gun smoke is the last thing you want to smell when you’re pregnant. High lead levels can cause nerve disorders and infertility. It can also lead to birth defects. And for pregnant women, it increases the risk of pre-eclampsia, premature birth and hypertension.
High levels of lead exposure in adults and children can cause vomiting, muscle weakness, seizures and even death. Children are more vulnerable than adults, since they’re still growing.
04. How can you reduce lead exposure while shooting a gun?
One option is wearing protective gear. Wear long-sleeved shirts, shooting gloves and a face mask while shooting targets at the range. Once you’re done, leave.
Don’t stay too long, especially without a face mask. Breathing in the gun smoke of other’s guns is as bad as breathing your own gun smoke.
Another option is moving from an indoor shooting range to an outdoor one. The lead particles should disperse in the open air.
A third option is going to a gun range that has excellent ventilation, so that the heavy metal particles are removed from the air before you inhale it.
05. What's the issue of eating or drinking at the range?
Regardless of where you go shooting, don’t eat or drink at the range. You don’t want to ingest the particles you’re trying not to breathe in. Wash your hands and face after you go shooting for the same reason.
If you’re really concerned, change clothes after you go shooting. Then put the lead-contaminated clothing in a plastic bag so the lead particles don’t get on anything else. You can even wash it in de-lead detergent that will remove the heavy metals.
The next step is washing it as soon as possible. Take a shower to wash all exposed skin. Wash in cold water rather than hot, since hot water opens your pores.
Wash your hair, since this removes any chemical traces in your hair.
Use lead-free ammunition
You can also change your shooting routine. You could choose lead free ammunition. Lead free ammunition may cost more, but it is toxic-metal free primed. You also have the option of shooting fewer rounds.
You won’t get as much practice, but your skills won’t go rusty the way they would if you stopped shooting for nine months. If you want to continue practicing with the same gun and ammo, shoot fewer rounds less often. Do it just often enough to maintain your skills.
Dry fire practice
Yet another solution would be dry fire practice using dummy rounds and snap caps. We’d recommend buying dry-fire cards and running through dry fire drills. You’ll be able to maintain skills such as grip, stance, sight alignment and trigger control.
Drawing guns and holstering an unloaded weapon won’t cause lead exposure, either. But it will reinforce your muscle memory. Yet it doesn’t help you maintain your aim.
One solution to this problem is to
Switch to an airsoft gun that looks and feels like your preferred firearm. You can practice hitting the target or just accompany the rest of the family to the range, but you’re not getting the same level of lead exposure.
This is because airsoft doesn’t contain lead. The projectiles are made from plastic.
Use laser practice guns
You won’t feel the same recoil or be exposed to the same loud noise, either. There are some who recommend using laser ammo or laser practice guns to maintain skills, but there is less information about how these products perform. Yet they are a lead-free option.
Note that these actions only reduce the risk of heavy metal exposure from gunfire. There are additional issues that arise when you’re cleaning the gun.
06. How can a pregnant woman minimize her risk when cleaning guns?
Shooting the gun isn’t the problem. The heavy metal residue inside the gun is the problem. Fortunately, there are several potential solutions to this.
One solution is wearing gloves and a face mask as well as protective goggles while you clean your own gun. This is in addition to having good ventilation so that you’re not breathing in solvent fumes.
Another option is having someone else clean the gun for you. There are a couple of side benefits of taking these protective measures.
You don’t have to clean up the brass at the range, and no one should be asking you to reload the ammo.
07. Does the recoil pose a risk to me or the baby?
No. The recoil from the gun is no more of a health hazard than if someone pushed you. And there is nothing wrong with sitting down or laying down while you shoot, if the recoil makes it uncomfortable.
You’ll run into more problems standing for an extended period of time in your third trimester. So go ahead and sit down on a stool while shooting at the range or lay down while aiming at your target.
08. Are there any concerns about hunting game shot with lead bullets?
If you’re going to go hunting, have lead-free ammo so that you do not contaminate the meat with lead. If other members of the family are hunting, ask them to do the same.
Then you won’t eat venison or pork laced with lead. The alternative is asking for cuts of meat as far from the bullet entry and exit sites as possible. Then again, you could ask them to go bow hunting for the baby’s sake.
09. Is It dangerous for a nursing woman to handle a gun?
If you’re breastfeeding a baby, the same concerns about lead exposure exist. Use lead-free ammo, and take protective measures so that lead doesn’t get into your system.
Always change your clothes before you come into contact with the child, especially before you pump breastmilk or breastfeed. Furthermore, you should wash your hands and face before you come into contact with a baby or other young child.
10. How can you take protective measures?
If you want to take it to the next level, use de-lead soap or wipes. What should you do if you get a lungful of gun smoke or spend an afternoon on the range without protective measures?
Don’t panic. Whatever your blood level lead content is, your breastmilk will have five percent of that. You don’t need to pump and dump breastmilk if the exposure was brief or occurred just once.
Most lead related birth defects are due to women drinking tap water flowing through lead pipes for years.