The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.


Ovide should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding unless the benefits of treatment outweigh the potential risks to the baby. There have been no human studies that have looked at the safety of Ovide (topical malathion) during pregnancy.

What is Ovide?

Ovide is a medication that is used to control the symptoms of a parasitic infection. Ovide is currently available as both generic and brand name medication. The active ingredient in Ovide is malathion, an insecticide. Ovide is available as a topical lotion and is applied once (a second application may be required after 7-9 days). It is available by prescription from your doctor. 

What is Ovide used to treat?

Ovide is used to treat head lice and scabies in in children over 6 years of age, adolescents, and adults (not used in neonates or infants). Head lice is a parasitic infection that spreads person-to-person and causes itching and inflammation. 

How does Ovide work?

Ovide works by interfering with nerve impulses in parasites, leading to paralysis of the parasite and death. 

If I am taking Ovide, can it harm my baby?

There are a lack of studies evaluating the safety of Ovide during human pregnancy. Because of this lack of safety information, it is not recommended to use Ovide during pregnancy unless required. The CDC recommends that pregnant women consult their doctor before using Ovide. 

Evidence from animal studies with Ovide:

Animal studies have not shown a risk of harm to the baby with Ovide exposure during pregnancy. When given orally to pregnant rats and rabbits at doses several times higher than recommended human doses, there was no harm reported. 

Evidence for the risks of Ovide in human babies:

Ovide has been shown to remain on the skin and hands for seven days after exposure. A study from 1992 looking at pregnancy outcomes in women from San Francisco after aerial spraying of malathion reported no increase in overall birth defects, delayed growth, or miscarriage. There was a significant increase in stomach and intestinal defects with second trimester malathion exposure in this study. A study from 1987 in 22,465 infants exposed to aerial malathion during the first trimester found no increase in the risk of birth defects. One study in seven year olds exposed to pesticides in utero found an increased risk of lower verbal and intelligence scores; however, malathion has not been associated with these negative developmental effects. There has been one case report of a child born with a limb defect condition after being exposed to malathion during the 12-13th week of pregnancy; however, malathion was never proven to be linked to the development of this birth defect. Individuals at the greatest risk of negative effects associated with malathion are farm and factory workers who experience long-term exposure to malathion that is used as a pesticide/insecticide. Non-medicinal treatment of lice using a lice comb or permethrin may be recommended as first-line therapy in pregnant women before Ovide is recommended. 

Bottom line: It is not recommended to use Ovide during pregnancy unless required. The CDC recommends that pregnant women consult their doctor before using Ovide

If I am taking Ovide and become pregnant, what should I do?

If you are taking Ovide and become pregnant, you should contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will determine if your medication is medically necessary, or if it should be discontinued until after the birth of your baby.

If I am taking Ovide, can I safely breastfeed my baby?

It is unknown if Ovide passes into the breast milk with topical exposure. The estimated amount of Ovide absorbed into the body after topical application is 8%. Ovide has been shown to remain on the skin and hands for seven days after exposure. It is recommended to use caution if applying this medication while nursing an infant. It is important to weigh the risks versus the benefits of this medication before using it while breastfeeding. 

Bottom line: It is recommended to use caution if applying this medication while nursing an infant. It is not known if Ovide passes into breast milk, but topical application of this medication is not expected to be readily absorbed into the body.

If I am taking Ovide, will it be more difficult to get pregnant?

Studies in animals suggest that high doses of injected Ovide may decrease male and female fertility. However, rats exposed to topical malathion at doses exceeding recommended human doses showed no negative effects on fertility. 

If I am taking Ovide, what should I know?

It is not recommended to use Ovide during pregnancy unless required. Caution is advised if applying this medication while nursing a baby.

If I am taking any medication, what should I know?

This report provides a summary of available information about the use of Ovide during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Content is from the product label unless otherwise indicated.

You may find Pregistry's expert report about scabies and lice here and reports about the various medications used to treat infections here.   Additional information can also be found in the resources below. 

For more information about Ovide, scabies, and lice during and after pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or check the following links:

World Health Organization: Scabies

Medline Plus: Head lice

U.S. Food and Drug Administration  Ovide Prescribing Information

U.S. Centers for Disease Control: Malathion Frequently Asked Questions.

Read the whole report
General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.