Pregnancy is a common time to launch a major redecorating project in your home. Use caution if you're determined to do painting, stripping, wallpapering or furniture refinishing — or if your job involves painting. Try to avoid exposure, especially during the first trimester, to oil-based paints, lead, mercury (which is present in some latex paints) and other substances that have solvents (chemicals used to dissolve other materials). These substances may increase your risk of miscarriage or cause birth defects.

Most of the studies investigating the risks of these substances to pregnant women involved women who were exposed to paint fumes for long periods because of their occupation. Brief exposure to paints and similar compounds shouldn't pose a significant risk to the fetus. Still, it's best to be cautious. Minimize your exposure to potentially hazardous substances by following these rules:

• Make sure to work in a large, well-ventilated area.

• Wear protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask.

• Consider letting someone else paint that room.

• Use all paints only as directed by the manufacturer. For example, don't use paints labeled for outdoor use indoors.

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