Sunbathing While Pregnant

Pregnant woman sunbathing next to pool
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Having a tan was once considered a healthy look. However, nothing could be further from the truth. When you add pregnancy to the mixture it can become even more dangerous. The problem is that sunlight is also the way that we get Vitamin D, which is needed for a healthy body. So we have to find a way to get the Vitamin D we need, without increasing the risks from too much sun exposure.

Risks of Sunbathing While Pregnant

In addition to the risks of regular sunbathing (sunburn, skin cancer, etc.), sunbathing while pregnant adds a whole new dimension.

  • Exposure to the sun can increase the core temperature of the pregnant woman. You could more easily become dehydrated which would lead to symptoms of preterm labor. This in turn can elevate the temperature of the fetus, which can cause brain damage if raised high enough or long enough.
  • While pregnant, the hormones, mainly estrogen, in your body actually can increase the risk of cholasma or mask of pregnancy and other sun exposures when exposed to the sun and it's UV rays. These darkened spots, usually on the forehead and across the nose, may or may not retreat after pregnancy.
  • Exposure to the sun, particularly on that results in a sunburn, can increase the risk of cancer (melanoma).

Artificial Tanning

The simple answer for those who want a bronzed body might seem to be means of artificial tanning. Considering the fact that tanning beds and self tanners have been around a relatively short period of time and have even fewer amounts of studies placed on them, particularly as it relates to pregnancy, the jury is out.

Many practitioners say err on the side of caution and avoid the artificial means of tanning as well.

Tanning beds reduce the risks of overheating as opposed to natural sunlight. Although there are the same risks of pregnancy skin problems and the usual risks of sun related disorders. The ultraviolet radiation from the beds does increase the rate of aging of the skin, substantially increasing the risks of skin cancer.

What about alternatives to sunbathing?

Tanning creams, or self-tanning lotions, are another product that are pushed hot and heavy during the summer and winter months. The active ingredient tends to be dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which is absorbed through the skin. Because of the exposure of this chemical to the skin, the DHA will be absorbed and cross through the placenta to the baby. Amounts of transmission to the baby will vary, depending on the amount applied, frequency of application and if there are any open areas of skin (abrasions, sores, etc.). The use of these products does not provide protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, therefore, one must still use the commercial sunscreen for protection.

Best Advice for Sun Exposure and Pregnant Women

In the end, the big question is one that must be answered by the individual. Despite years of research and warning millions of people all over the world are dedicated sun worshipers. For many pregnancy will not change this. Taking precautions and understanding the risks is very important.

The biggest of these precautions is drinking enough water and minimizing exposure to prevent overheating and using the proper sunscreen to minimize damage to your skin.

  • Avoid the middle part of the day
  • Wear loose, light clothing to cover your skin
  • Large floppy hats and sunglasses will protect your eyes, ears, and face
  • Wear appropriate and approved sunscreens in pregnancy
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife about Vitamin D supplementation

Sources:

Buck Louis GM, Kannan K, Sapra KJ, Maisog J, Sundaram R. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Dec 15;180(12):1168-75. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu285. Epub 2014 Nov 13. Urinary concentrations of benzophenone-type ultraviolet radiation filters and couples' fecundity.

Handel AC, Lima PB, Tonolli VM, Miot LD, Miot HA. Br J Dermatol. 2014 Sep;171(3):588-94. doi: 10.1111/bjd.13059. Epub 2014 Aug 7. Risk factors for facial melasma in women: a case-control study.

Pérez-López FR, Pasupuleti V, Mezones-Holguin E, Benites-Zapata VA, Thota P, Deshpande A, Hernandez AV. Fertil Steril. 2015 May;103(5):1278-88.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.02.019. Epub 2015 Mar 23. Effect of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy on maternal and neonatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

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