(Date of issue: October 2013. Version: 1)
This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by Public Health England on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.
Working as a hairdresser during pregnancy
Hairdressers may be exposed to several types of chemicals, including those in hair dyes, perming solution and styling products. These factors, along with other aspects of the job, often raise concern as to whether working as a hairdresser whilst pregnant may put a pregnancy or unborn baby at risk.
There are a number of scientific studies that have examined whether hairdressers are at increased risk of a poor pregnancy outcome. The findings of these studies are summarised below. Overall they suggest that hairdressers are no more likely to experience a poor pregnancy outcome (see below) than non-hairdressers.
It should be noted, however, that many of these studies were carried out several years ago. Although it is probable that workplace safety standards have improved in recent years and that use of protective personal equipment (PPE), like gloves, is now more routine, new products and combinations of products that are now being used may not have been included in these studies.
It is therefore advisable that your employer is aware of your pregnancy as early on as possible so that an occupational health assessment can be carried out. It is also important that you follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions for each individual product that you use, including using protective personal equipment, for example gloves, where advised.
Can working as a hairdresser during pregnancy cause my baby to be born with a birth defect?
There is currently no scientific proof that that working as a hairdresser during pregnancy causes birth defects.
Most (four out of five) studies have shown that women who work as hairdressers during pregnancy are no more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than non-hairdressers.
Studies of specific defects have also not provided scientific proof that hairdressers are at increased risk of having a baby with:
• cleft lip, or cleft lip and palate (a split in the lip and/or the roof of the mouth)
• hypospadias (where the opening for urine is on the underside rather than at the tip of the penis)
• undescended testes (where the testes have not come down into the scrotal sac at birth)
• spina bifida (a defect of the spine)
• heart defects
• certain types of bowel (gut) abnormalities
• shortened or missing limbs
• abdominal wall defect (an opening in the skin and muscle layers of the abdomen)
• defects of the kidney and/or urinary tract
Can working as a hairdresser during pregnancy cause a miscarriage?
Taken together, the available scientific studies do not prove that working as a hairdresser during pregnancy increases the risk of having a miscarriage. Although some studies have suggested a link between miscarriage and being a hairdresser, most studies show no link.
Can working as a hairdresser during pregnancy cause preterm birth?
No increased risk of hairdressers delivering before 37 weeks of pregnancy was shown in most (five out of six) of the available studies.
Can working as a hairdresser during pregnancy cause my baby to have a low birth weight?
Most available studies have not shown a link between working as a hairdresser during pregnancy and having a low birth weight baby. However, there are some studies suggesting that women who worked as hairdressers during pregnancy may be more likely to have a baby that is small for the stage of pregnancy. Because the results of these studies do not agree, more information is needed before definite conclusions can be drawn.
Can working as a hairdresser during pregnancy cause stillbirth?
No increased risk of stillbirth was shown in four studies of women who worked as hairdressers during pregnancy.
Can using hair dye during pregnancy cause other health problems in the child?
Learning or behavioural problems
No increased risk of developmental problems at 19 months of age was shown in one study of children whose mothers worked as hairdressers during pregnancy.
There is no scientific proof that working as a hairdresser during pregnancy will cause the child that you are carrying to develop cancer.
No increased overall risk of childhood cancers in children of hairdressers was shown in the one study which investigated this.
Although a study of children with neuroblastoma (a certain type of childhood cancer) suggested a possible link with their mothers working as a hairdresser in pregnancy, neuroblastoma has been linked to many other factors. This makes it likely that many of these links have occurred because of problems with how the information was collected or analysed in these studies. There is therefore currently no proof that working as a hairdresser in pregnancy causes neuroblastoma.
Will my baby need extra monitoring during pregnancy?
Working as a hairdresser during pregnancy is not expected to cause any problems that would require extra monitoring of your baby.
Are there any risks to my baby if the father worked as a hairdresser?
There is no firm scientific evidence from a very small number of studies that there is any increased risk to your baby if the father works/worked as a hairdresser.
Who can I talk to if I have questions?
If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org.
If you are pregnant and are worried about the chemicals you are working with, or have had accidental contact with a large volume of chemical(s), you may wish to ask your doctor to contact UKTIS for advice.
Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks. They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.
Medicines use in pregnancy
Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby. There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development. How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.
If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.
When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.
Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.