Should a trip to the shooting range be on your to-do list while you're expecting? There's plenty of debate if shooting while pregnant is a safe idea for mothers to be. In this article, we explore credible experts and information so you can make the best decision for your family.
Pregnant women receive tons of advice. Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even random strangers on the street offer strong opinions about how the expectant mother should be living. They warn against eating seafood, cleaning the cat box, wearing heels, and drinking coffee. There is so much information about what a pregnant woman should and shouldn’t do, it can leave a mother-to-be feeling thoroughly confused (which isn’t hard with all the surging hormones.)
If you or your partner is expecting, you probably have serious concerns about the safety of your unborn baby. If you are a shooter, shooting guns while pregnant can add to that with a very unique set of worries.
Can You Go Shooting While Pregnant?
There is scant information available when it comes to shooting and pregnancy. Women shooters are such a small portion of the general population (About 5% of our site’s traffic), and as such, they aren’t widely studied. Pregnant women shooters make up an even smaller demographic.
Finding specific research addressing the risks of shooting guns while pregnant is nearly impossible. However, there are resources available to help expectant parents make informed choices about shooting.
In short, there are two main concerns for pregnant shooters:
- Heavy metal exposure
- Noise levels
Exposure to Lead and Other Heavy Metals During Pregnancy
All shooters should be concerned about lead exposure, not just pregnant women. Lead poisoning is a serious issue. Lead can negatively affect every organ in the body. High lead levels can cause high blood pressure, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and infertility.
Lead exposure is particularly harmful to developing babies. When the mother-to-be has lead present in her body, it crosses the placenta and can adversely impact birth weight and head circumference. Low-level lead exposure can also have lasting effects on brain development.
Lead exposure during pregnancy also increases the possibility of infertility, miscarriage, premature membrane rupture, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy hypertension, and premature delivery. These conditions put the lives of both mother and baby at risk.
Shooting and Lead Exposure
Lead exposure is a serious issue for regular shooters. The typical cartridge primer is composed of about 35% lead styphnate and lead dioxide.
When a shot is fired, tiny lead particles from the primer discharge are released into the air. This airborne lead can be inhaled by the shooter or absorbed through the skin.
The projectile is also a source of lead exposure. Bullets with a lead core can disintegrate due to slight imperfections in the barrel. As the combustion of primer and propellant create extreme heat, some of this lead becomes vapor and can then be inhaled or absorbed. This is why even men who shoot regularly should be sure to wash up after range trips to mitigate any lead exposure risks.
Other Heavy Metals
Although lead poses the biggest threat to shooters, other dangerous heavy metals are released during shooting as well.
These include antimony, boron, and manganese. While there is little research into the effects of low-level exposure to these metals, limited studies show no statistically significant link between exposure and general cognitive development.
How Noise Impacts Fetal Development
Anyone who has spent time on a gun range understands the level of noise produced when shooting. These extreme noise levels can have serious detrimental effects on hearing. This is why most gun ranges require ear protection.
The sound levels produced by standard centerfire handguns, rifles, and shotguns range from 140 decibels to 170 decibels. To put this in perspective, exposure to any sound above 140 decibels can potentially cause physical pain and immediate hearing damage in humans.
While shooters have access to ear pro, exposure to high decibel noise can have other negative consequences for the mom-to-be. Extreme noise levels during pregnancy have been linked to miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation, and preterm delivery.
The mother’s muscle structure, organs, and the amniotic fluid provide some protection for the developing fetus. By the time sounds reach the unborn baby, they have been significantly muffled. Despite this natural protection, noise exposure during pregnancy can have a negative impact on fetal development. Extended exposure to loud sounds can lead to an altered immune response in the fetus and potential hearing loss in babies.
Solutions for Pregnant Shooters
Shooting is a perishable skill and nine months is more than enough time to lose proficiency. Effective and accurate shooting is particularly important for law enforcement personnel, competition shooters, and concealed carry permit holders. For pregnant women, their shooting skills can seriously suffer if they take a nine-month break.
Here are some suggestions to continue your shooting practice while minimizing risks to both you and your unborn baby.
Reducing Lead and Heavy Metal Exposure
The best way to prevent excessive lead exposure is to avoid shooting and ranges altogether. However, if you decide to continue shooting during your pregnancy, there are ways to reduce exposure to toxic elements on the range.
- Do not eat or drink at the range.
- Choose lead free ammunition. Rounds like Federal’s BallistiClean, Syntech, and Remington’s Leadless are toxic-metal free primed.
- Be sure your indoor range has adequate ventilation.
- Shoot at an outdoor range.
- Wear a face mask when shooting.
- Wash your hands and face with cool water and de-lead soap immediately after shooting
- Use shooting gloves to minimize skin absorption.
- Change clothes as soon as possible.
- Transport lead-contaminated clothing in a plastic bag.
- Have someone else clean your firearm.
Safe Ways to Train During Pregnancy
Alternative Training to Shooting Guns While Pregnant
If you decide to avoid shooting during your pregnancy, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to practice. There are ways to train without exposing you or your unborn baby to noise and lead contamination.
Dry fire practice with snap caps or dummy rounds is a great way to go through the motions of shooting without using live ammunition. It will help maintain important skills like grip, stance, trigger control, and sight alignment — important fundamentals every shooter needs. Dry fire practice is a great way for all shooters, pregnant or not, to preserve and develop these basic skills.
You can also continue to practice drawing and holstering your unloaded weapon to reinforce muscle memory.
Airsoft guns also provide a safe training option for pregnant women concerned about taking a 9-month shooting hiatus. These recreational guns have the look and in some cases can almost mimic the feel of real firearms. There may even be an airsoft option that matches the model of your service or personal carry weapon.
Airsoft guns are safer than conventional firearms because they shoot lead-free plastic projectiles, produce minimal recoil, and are relatively quiet to shoot. Airsoft can be a fun way to practice tactical skills, accuracy, and shooting fundamentals. There are even airsoft tournaments to scratch your competitive itch.
So, Is It Safe To Shoot Guns While Pregnant?
Ultimately, the choice to shoot or not is up to you. However, consulting with your doctor or other medical care provider is an important step in the decision-making process. There are several safety measures to consider, but should you decide not to shoot during your pregnancy, be sure to find other ways to practice so you don’t lose proficiency.