Beef tartare? Coffee? Hot tubs? A Cosmopolitan? Experts say pregnant women should avoid all of these things, which then begs the question, “Can I do anything I like?” Harboring new life is amazing, demanding and requires some sacrifice. But—should expectant mothers plan to leave their guns in their safes for nine months?
If anyone should know the answer to this, it’s IPSC Ladies World Champion and the only 7-Division USPSA Ladies National Champion, Julie Golob. As impressive as these titles are, no doubt the one Golob is most proud of is “Mom.” Golob is mother to two daughters, who came into the world well after she was a famous name in the world of competitive shooting. And it’s probably these same questions she asked herself during her pregnancies that prompted her to compile, “Shooting While Pregnant, A Resource for Expecting Moms” a free, downloadable 8-page booklet on juliegolob.com. The short book answers almost every question posed by expectant women who like to shoot.
Golob's information is derived from research compiled from scientific sources like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the expert opinion of a medical doctor.
Golob addresses a few key areas of concern. For instance, noise levels. If healthy adults have to wear ear protection at the range, how could a baby in utero go without? The book spells out that at 16 weeks a baby starts to respond to sounds from outside the womb, and their hearing rapidly develops from there. By 24 weeks, the ear is structurally complete. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the CDC, recommends that pregnant women stay away from sounds over 115 decibels (dBA). The average firearm, even a .22 caliber one, will produce at least that many decibels. Unsuppressed center-fires and shotguns can produce over 175 dBA. These loud noises should most definitely be avoided if you’re pregnant, otherwise, unborn babies can be subjected to hearing loss.
Another concern is exposure to lead. There’s a reason why most shooters will wash their faces, hands, and blow their noses multiple times after a range session: it’s to clear away as much of the residual gunpowder as possible. So can the amount of lead a fetus is exposed to on a firing range be harmful? As explained in the book, gunsmoke contains lead particulates that are harmful when inhaled or ingested, perhaps by snacking at the bench or not properly washing hands and face. Studies have shown that lead poisoning is associated with premature birth or miscarriage, and a host of other long-lasting effects. Thus, pregnant women should not only be wary of exposing the fetus to lead, but also from chemicals that are used to clean their guns. Even if they’re avoiding the range, metal dust and cleaning solvents can also be dangerous if inhaled.
Noise levels and lead dust notwithstanding, it doesn’t mean you should leave your gun in the safe. You should definitely continue legally carrying your gun around town for personal safety. A couple of defensive shots at an attacker is sure to do less damage to you and your unborn child than if that attacker found you unarmed and vulnerable. Just like you’re eating for two, you’re also carrying for two.
So, should the pregnant pause? The book's short answer is to consult with your doctor and your partner to make the right decision for you and your baby. Golob acknowledges knowing women who shot throughout their pregnancies and delivered happy, healthy babies. However, according to the book, " ... the best way to reduce exposure to the dangers is to avoid them altogether. That means, no shooting and avoiding ranges, especially indoor ranges where exposure to lead, noise, and contaminants is greater. If you and your doctor decide that it is safe for you to shoot during a portion of your pregnancy, then there are ways to help reduce the risks to you and your baby."
The book outlines the recommendations and other options to mitigate the risk of lead exposure, noise and contaminants, and alternatives to shooting altogether when a pregnant woman gets the itch to plink at targets. Golob suggests airsoft guns or dry firing to keep your aim accurate for personal protection or competitions!
Be sure to download this valuable resource, "Shooting While Pregnant," for more in-depth information on how gun gals get by with a bun in the oven.