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Sunbathing in Pregnancy


Updated June 14, 2014

Pregnant woman sunbathing next to pool
Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

Having a tan is 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.

In addition to the risks of regular sunbathing (sun burn, skin cancer, etc.), pregnancy adds a whole new dimension.

  • Exposure to the sun can increase the core temperature of the pregnant woman, 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 when exposed to the sun. These darkened spots, usually on the forehead and across the nose, may or may not retreat after pregnancy.

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.

Tanning cremes, 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 sun screen for protection.

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 sun screen to minimize damage to your skin.

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