Many sunscreens and diaper rash creams contain topical zinc oxide, a form of the mineral zinc. You can also find zinc oxide in oral over-the-counter supplements. Safety in pregnancy depends on the type of zinc oxide exposure and the dose. Do not take zinc supplements beyond the amount in your prenatal vitamin without talking to your medical practitioner first.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has not assigned topical zinc oxide to a formal pregnancy safety category. Using topical zinc oxide in normal amounts is probably safe for pregnant women, although if you're using it on large areas of your body, talk with your doctor first, eMed TV advises. Most sunscreens contain between 5 and 10 percent zinc oxide, while diaper rash creams contain 10 to 40 percent.
You need 11 mg of zinc per day during pregnancy if you're over age 19 and 12 mg per day if you're 18 or under, according to the recommended dietary allowance. The safe maximum dose of zinc is 40 mg per day, but you should exceed the RDA only if your doctor recommends it. If you're pregnant, a standard prenatal vitamin contains all the zinc you need without taking additional zinc oxide supplements.
Welders may inhale zinc oxide, and inhaled zinc oxide can cause metal fume fever. Symptoms include profuse sweating, fever, chills, headache, weakness, cough, muscle aches, joint pain and trouble breathing; these symptoms last 24 to 48 hours. You may need oxygen if you develop this disorder. If you lack of oxygen, your baby will too, which could have harmful effects. Talk with your doctor about safety precautions if you work as a welder or work around welders, and see her immediately if you've been exposed to inhaled zinc oxide and develop symptoms.
In rat studies, high doses of zinc oxide,100 or 200 mg per kg per day for 21 days caused an increase in fetal death and reduced birth weight in offspring, according to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration. While animal studies and human studies don't always give the same results, avoid large doses of zinc oxide during pregnancy to avoid potential harm to your baby.
- Drugs.com: Zinc Oxide
- Linus Pauling Institute; Zinc; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; December 2003
- eMed TV; Zinc; Kristi Monson, Pharm.D., et al.; October 2008
- "Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society"; Metal Fume Fever: A Review of the Literature; Syed Atif Ahsan, et al.; November/December 2009
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Zinc Oxide