Shooting While Pregnant: A Safe Fetus and Firearm Safety Must Correlate
The creation of life during a safe pregnancy should be celebrated, but often that celebration is befuddled when pregnant gun owners consider shooting while pregnant. However, doing so at a gun range or elsewhere can pose risks to the safe fetus flourishing in a womb.
Parents should be concerned about multiple risk factors during pregnancy, and there is no shortage of self-help books out there for every topic under the sun — and probably some concerning the sun itself.
But what about soon-to-be mothers who exercise their Second Amendment rights?
There are multiple considerations. Lead exposure, noise toxicity, and chemical hazards are potential risks. There is plenty of proposed restrictions for mothers, pregnant or not. Understandably, this can be frustrating, especially when trying to preserve trained skills like firearm accuracy and efficiency.
A developing fetus in the womb is directly impacted by several factors. It is an arrangement of cells striving for life in the depths of a mother’s body, and the environment within the mother’s body is directly impacted by that which surrounds it.
Make no mistake, this guide is a touching point for only a few subjects. It is obviously encouraged that mothers speak with their physician and delve deeper into the subjects at hand through personal research as well.
Arming yourself with knowledge prior to firearms is always a good route. The intent here is not to say whether or not to utilize a firearm, either for recreation or self-defense, but rather to provide information on safe tactics.
Many sources prohibit firearm use while pregnant, others recommend minimizing all potential hazards to the child.
Control Lead Exposure and Metals When Shooting While Pregnant
Ammunition choice when shooting while pregnant can affect a safe fetus. Having said that, there are multiple types of ammunition and the safest bets are either full-metal jacket ammunition or lead-free ammunition without a lead core and with lower lead particulates in the gun powder.
A cartridge is composed of a case holding propellant (gun powder), a primer, and the bullet itself, often made of lead. When the trigger of a gun is pulled, a hammer strikes the primer that ignites the propellant. The resulting explosive charge fires the bullet.
Upon firing the bullet, lead particles are expelled into the air and potentially onto the body. This is called Gun Shot Residue (GSR). There are two primary methods lead enters the body — breathing it in or coming in direct contact with it, often while eating or drinking after being exposed to it.
A full-metal jacket has copper plating over the lead, which then reduces exposure to the harmful material. Lead-free ammunition is fairly self-explanatory.
Lead exposure and toxicity is especially harmful to a developing fetus. According to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, lead present in the mother’s body is transferred to the fetus through the placenta. Another study indicates lead exposure to women causes infertility, miscarriage, premature membrane rupture, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy hypertension and premature delivery.
Lead exposure is linked to decreased birth weight, length, and head circumference, according to another study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Although no threshold has been found to trigger the adverse health effects of lead, in nonpregnant adults blood lead levels less than 5 micrograms/dL are considered normal, blood lead levels between 5 micrograms/dL and 10 micrograms/dL require follow-up, and blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms/dL are managed with environmental assessment and abatement of exposures.”
That same study indicated that pregnant women with levels of 5 micrograms/dL or higher should receive counseling about avoiding exposure to lead.
Due to inhalation and contact with lead, these are some of the risky behaviors for pregnant women that cause high exposure to lead: shooting at a poorly ventilated indoor range, using lead ammunition and primers, handling and loading lead bullets, eating and drinking at a range, cleaning up a range thereby causing dust with lead particulates to enter the air to later be aspirated if no safety gear is worn, not using gloves when cleaning a gun, not washing hands with cold (not hot) water, and failing to clean clothing used while firing a gun.
After leaving a range, changing and putting all used, lead-contaminated clothing in a plastic bag may be another best practice.
Unsure of which surfaces have residual lead on them? Lead Check Swabs are a quick and easy way to test determine lead-safe areas, and they’re available in many hardware stores.
Many gun ranges won’t allow pregnant women on the premises because of lead and noise pollution, an issue that arises around 13 weeks into pregnancy.
Army Regulation 40–501, Standards of Medical Fitness, outlines its own regulation on pregnant women around firearms. “No weapons training in indoor firing ranges due to airborne lead concentrations and bore gas emissions. Firing of weapons is permitted at outdoor sites.”
In addition to lead, high concentrations of barium, antimony, copper, and arsenic may be toxic and can be found while using a firearm. Cleaning solvents for firearms are another potential chemical hazard for pregnant women.
Noise Pollution and Shooting While Pregnant
Noise from shooting while pregnant may negatively affect an otherwise safe fetus and in turn affect a safe pregnancy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets an exposure limit for rapid impulse noise at 140 decibels. Furthermore, rimfire rifles are 125–140 dB, rimfire pistols are at 140–150 dB, and centerfire pistols, rifles, and shotguns are at 150–160 dB.
According to Women’s Outdoor News, eight hours of sound at 90 dB will cause ear damage, and 140 dB sound will cause immediate damage.
Although all the fetus’ hearing structures are in place, hearing sense is not fully developed until approximately 42 weeks of gestation. Excessively loud noise has been linked to miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation, preterm delivery, hearing loss in babies and children, altered immune response in the fetus, and hypertension.
It’s not clear at which point the fetus is most prone to damage from high sound levels.
The best thing to do concerning sound is to consult a medical professional before heading out on the range.
A Safe Fetus and Safe Pregnancy
Shooting while pregnant is ultimately up to the firearm owner. There are several safety measures, not to mention firearm safety, to consider and the pregnant mother looking to keep in practice with her guns should maintain close contact with her medical professional at all steps of the process.
There are safe practices and many considerations, but lead, chemical, and noise exposure are some key components of firearm safety that soon-to-be parents should consider.