Mold and Allergies

Just how scary is mold?


It must be "mold season." I've gotten several emails recently from worried women who've discovered mold growing in their walls, bathrooms, couches and offices. They're frightened mold could damage their baby's health or cause miscarriage. When they went online to do "mold research" what they found scared the bejeezus out them. Let's see if we can take some of the fear factor out of this moldy situation.

I've written about mold before in light of just how tough babies are. Mold has a nasty reputation, made a lot scarier by claims that mycotoxins (byproducts made by mold spores) can cause very serious diseases. Most people, however, won't have those scary, serious diseases. By all means, you should get mold out of your house, but then you should try to calm down. The "worst case" scenarios mold can cause aren't likely to happen to you. Unless you have a talent for winning the lottery, getting struck by lightening or any other "fat chance of that happening" situation, you and your baby are probably going to be just fine.

There haven't been any studies that directly link mold to miscarriage or birth defect but there has been anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence means people tell stories and they may or may not be accurate. People telling the stories might be right on target and tell the absolute truth about their individual experience but they might also ham it up and exaggerate to make it a bigger, scarier story. It may be coincidental that they had a miscarriage sometime after they found mold in their home. Miscarriage happens more frequently than any of us like (about 20% of all pregnancies) and sometimes it helps us to process our grief if we can blame it on something. Especially something nasty like mold.

It would be medically irresponsible to intentionally expose pregnant women to mold, then stand back and see what happens. Studies have been done on the health hazards of mold to non-pregnant people and mold has been linked to allergies, asthma, sinus infection and rashes and once in a great while, more severe reactions.

The Environmental Protection Agency says molds have the potential to cause health problems. They produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms and asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.

Just because mold has the potential to cause allergic reactions in sensitive people doesn't mean it's going to happen. It's unusual and probably won't affect your baby. It's funky stuff, no doubt about it but even the EPA thinks anything worse than hay-fever is uncommon. They're studying it though.

Take home message? Mold's not good. Get rid of it. While it has the potential to be a major troublemaker, most of the time, it isn't a big deal. Talk to your doctor/midwife about your mold exposure, hire a professional to eliminate it and then relax. You've done what you can. Babies are amazingly resilient. If only mothers were, too, it would be a whole lot easier to raise them in a scary world.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.