Finding a mosquito repellent to use during pregnancy can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re looking for optimal protection from Zika and West Nile viruses. That’s why I reached out to Daniel Roshan, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in New York City. According to Dr. Roshan, “DEET is the safest, most studied and most effective insect repellent available.” The best mosquito repellents for pregnancy contain DEET — or alternatively, picaridin — to effectively ward off insects for anywhere between two to 12 hours. These repellents can be safely applied directly to the skin while you’re pregnant, and they come in various EPA-approved repellent concentrations and easy-to-use forms, including sprays, lotions, and wipes.
When it comes to choosing a mosquito repellent, DEET might have a bad rap, but Dr. Roshan explains, “There have been no studies to show adverse fetal outcomes when pregnant women use DEET containing insect repellent.” For long-lasting coverage, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends DEET concentrations of 20 to 30% for optimal safety during pregnancy. Lower concentrations of DEET will offer less protection from mosquitoes. According to the CDC, protection from products with DEET concentrations below 10% might only last a couple of hours (but always check the label for the manufacturer’s specific instructions).
If you’re looking for a DEET-free mosquito repellent, the CDC notes that picaridin is a safe option. While it’s a newer type of repellent than DEET, studies have even shown that picaridin can work just as well as DEET, and the CDC recommends at least a 20% concentration. Dr. Roshan confirms that picaridin is “not a known teratogen when used appropriately.”
Botanical options are also available, but Dr. Roshan considers most “ineffective,” even if they are safe to use. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a CDC-approved repellent, but Kimberly Langdon, MD, an Ohio-based advisory board member with Medzino, explains to Bustle that you’d “probably need to apply the [oil of lemon eucalyptus] every hour or so,” so it might not be the most convenient option.
No bug repellent is 100% effective, though, so Dr. Langdon suggests using “adequate coverage by clothing, socks, long sleeves, [or] long pants” alongside your preferred repellent. She also notes that sprays and lotions are generally better than wearable repellents like clip-ons and bracelets because mosquitoes are “repelled spatially and by irritant (contact) methods.”
All the options below are for topical use, but the CDC advises to avoid spraying repellent on your face. And if you have any concerns or questions about applying mosquito repellent, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first.
Check out some of the best mosquito repellent sprays, lotions, and wipes available on Amazon.
1. A Fan-Favorite Mosquito Repellent Spray
- DEET concentration: 25%
- Application type: Spray
- Coverage: Up to 8 hours
With more than 20,000 reviews, this set of spray repellents is hugely popular on Amazon — and it’s a great value for the price. It has one of the highest DEET concentrations on this list, and reviewers have confirmed that it’s long-lasting. One reviewer wrote, “I spent several hours cleaning small trees and brush after applying to skin and [clothes] and had no problem with bug bites.”
Because of its high concentration of DEET, this option may have more of a potent scent than other choices — but reviewers have described the scent as “mild” and “not overwhelming.” It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a high-coverage repellent that can last for hours outdoors and you’re not super sensitive to smells.
One reviewer wrote: “I used this in mexico while pregnant. I usually get eaten alive by mosquitos and bugs when I travel to the carribean and wanted to be extra safe this time with obvious concern of zika while pregnant. I spent 5 weeks in various parts of the yucatan and quintana roo on beaches and in cenotes. ( No nature hikes) Goes on smooth and dry, but still has the deet smell, but the smell is not overwhelming. Used during the day and at night and rarely got bitten. Just [remember] to reapply as directed.”
2. This Long-Lasting & Odorless Mosquito Repellent Lotion
- DEET concentration: 20%
- Application type: Lotion
- Coverage: Up to 11 hours
This long-lasting repellent lotion by Sawyer is made with a slow-release formula that prevents the DEET from evaporating too quickly so it lasts up to 11 hours. The manufacturer also states that its topical repellents are “safe for use during pregnancy and on kids as young as six months of age.” Reviewers have appreciated that it’s “scent-free” and “doesn’t leave you feeling greasy.” The sweat-proof repellent is formulated to stay put, and many reviewers have agreed that its time-release formula lasts “all day” and “longer than others.”
One reviewer wrote: “My wife is a bug magnet. Many conventional bug sprays fail to keep the mosquitoes away from her for a significant amount of time. This is the one product that we've found that works for her. It keeps the bugs away for hours and the lotion application is very convenient. We are on our second bottle and this will always be our go to insect repellent.”
3. A Mosquito Repellent Spray With Picaridin
- Picaridin concentration: 20%
- Application type: Spray
- Coverage: Up to 12 hours
Formulated with picaridin, this scent-free repellent lacks the harsh aroma that DEET-based products can have and it can last up to 12 hours. One reviewer attested, “‘Zero scent’ is truly zero scent. It's nice being able to go inside without stinking up the place.” Another wrote that it repels mosquitoes “without a strong smell” and described it as “not too greasy.” Another shopper raved, “[It’s the] only product I’ve found that keeps mosquitoes off me.” All in all, it’s a good option to have on hand if you’re sensitive to the smell of DEET and want to try a picaridin product. And if you’d like to try a scented version, Ranger Ready has a collection of them, including Ranger Orange, Amber, and Night Sky.
One reviewer wrote: “I tried picaridin 20% as a mosquito repellent for the first time about 2 years ago. As someone who is allergic to scents, I appreciate that this repellent is not scented. Nor does it make you feel sticky or greasy like other repellents.”
3. This Portable Pack Of Mosquito Repellent Wipes
- DEET concentration: 30%
- Application type: Wipes
- Coverage: Up to 10 hours
If you’re looking for a mosquito repellent that’s travel-friendly and makes reapplication a snap, try these mosquito repellent wipes. They contain 15 wipes per pack, and reviewers have praised the wipes for being “convenient for carrying in [a] purse or pocket.” Users have also noted that the scent is mild and “[does] not reek like most deet sprays or lotions do.”
These Repel wipes are formulated to last for up to 10 hours, and many reviewers have described them as effective and easy to apply. One reviewer wrote that the product “worked perfect and is now my go to repellent wipes.”
One reviewer wrote: “Being 4 [months] pregnant and Zika being a threat in our area, my family and I went to an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception that was by the water out in farmland. I wiped myself and my 1yr old son down with these while my husband used off spray. There were PLENTY of mosquitos. Everyone else seemed to be swatting away at bugs/mosquitos and were bitten. Even my husband got bitten through his sock...but my son and I did not get anything at all. Overall, very effective and convenient product!”
5. This Aloe-Infused Mosquito Repellent For Brief Exposure
- DEET concentration: 7%
- Application type: Spray
- Coverage: Unspecified
This Cutter repellent spray has a relatively low concentration of DEET but is great for short outings. While the manufacturer doesn’t specify exactly how long it can be expected to last, don’t expect this choice to protect you all day. Reviewers have estimated that they can go about two to three hours before they need to reapply. On the plus side, the repellent incorporates aloe and vitamin E to help soften skin, and one reviewer wrote that it “felt nice on my skin and [I] didn't feel desperate for a shower as soon as I got inside.” The scent is also really mild when compared to many other DEET products, according to reviewers.
One reviewer wrote: “I’ve been using this same bug spray for years and I love it. I am very prone to mosquito bites and have tried many different sprays. This one is very effective and has a pleasant scent. [Definitely] recommend!”
Larry Goodyer, Steven Schofield. (2018) Mosquito repellents for the traveller: does picaridin provide longer protection than DEET?, Journal of Travel Medicine, Volume 25, https://doi.org/10.1093/jtm/tay005
Chen, T., Burczynski, F. J., Miller, D. W., & Gu, X. (2010). Percutaneous permeation comparison of repellents picaridin and DEET in concurrent use with sunscreen oxybenzone from commercially available preparations. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21155391/
Dr. Daniel Roshan, MD, FACOG, FACS, Board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in New York City