Pregnancy Guide: Is It Safe to Tan While You Are Pregnant?

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The pregnant woman in sunshine.
Source: http://listosaur.com/

Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, exposure to the sun puts you at risk for premature aging and malignant melanoma, also known as skin cancer. The following information will help you think through tanning in a bed, on the beach, or with help from a bottle.

[Read more about Pregnancy]

Some studies also link UV rays and folic acid deficiency. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and is especially important in the first trimester. During pregnancy, your skin is more susceptible to burning and cholasma, the dark splotches that appear on the face during pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider about the safety of tanning beds during pregnancy.

The pregnant woman in sunshine.
Source: http://listosaur.com/

 

If you have noticed dark, blotchy, brown, confetti-like patches of skin on your forehead, upper lip, and cheeks, you have chloasma what is often called the “mask of pregnancy.” You are not alone. This condition affects 50 to 75 percent of expectant mothers.

The mask of pregnancy, technically called melasma or chloasma, appears when a steep rise in estrogen levels stimulates excess melanin production also known as hyper pigmentation. That means your freckles and moles may look darker now too, there is probably a dark line down the center of your abdomen, the linea nigra, and your areolas could be a deeper shade. It is especially common in darker-skinned women, or those of Asian and African descent, who already have more pigment in their skin. Exposure to sunlight can make it worse. The good news, the discoloration is temporary and usually disappears after delivery or, in some cases, after you finish breastfeeding.

[Read more about Breastfeeding]

There are no studies that provide conclusive evidence that tanning beds directly harm your baby. However, the following are some ways that tanning beds can be harmful to you. Tanning beds pose the same dangers as the sun, as they emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes skin cancer. Most health care providers advise against any activity that might raise your body temperature, such as saunas or tanning beds. Overheating is associated with spinal malformations in the baby.

The anatomy of UV radiation for skin.
Source: http://www.skincancer.org/

Your baby is the most susceptible to negative effects from ultraviolet (UV) radiation during your first trimester and at the beginning of the second trimester. The foundation for brain development is being laid during this time. The highest risk period for the fetus is during organogenesis, which is two to seven weeks after conception. The early period (eight to 15 weeks after conception) is also considered a high-risk time.

UV radiation may be harmful for your baby. Studies have found that babies born to women in Australia who were exposed to higher levels of UV radiation during their first trimesters had higher rates of multiple sclerosis.

There is also concern that lying on your back too long could restrict blood flow to your heart and thus to your baby as well. If this happens, you will feel lightheaded.

Many of the concerns about beach sun are the same as tanning beds. Pregnancy makes your skin more sensitive so the sun may cause hives, heat rash, or worsened chloasma. Staying in the shade should prevent hives or heat rash. The same safety measures should be taken in the sun whether you are pregnant or not: drink plenty of water, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and wear a hat.

If you feel dizzy, nauseated, or tired, go to an air-conditioned area.  Long hours in the sun that result in burning should be avoided.

Tanning from a bottle may be the best option if you are pregnant. Avoiding UV rays will ensure healthier skin and less chance of skin cancer, hives or, worsened chloasma. There are so many different kinds of sunless tanning lotions, creams, and foams that have very good results. Many of the new varieties have minimal odor and provide immediate color.

The pregnant woman with sunglass and hat.
Source: https://woolworthsbabyandtoddlerclub.com.au

The only concern is whether the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), is able to penetrate the skin. Studies do not confirm that it can, but some health care providers encourage women to wait until after the first trimester, just to play it safe. DHA has been used in cosmetics and no problems have been reported. Even if you have used sunless tanners before, try a patch of skin first. Your skin may be more sensitive and irritable during pregnancy.

The best advice when trying a new product is to first apply it to a small area of skin, leave it for at least 24 hours, and assess the effects before applying it to the whole of your body. The only time DHA can be harmful is if it is inhaled or in any way consumed, which in turn makes it advisable to favor creams and lotions rather than sprays. And if you find strong scents too much to bear while pregnant, check out the fragrance-free options that can be much more palatable.

It is recommended to stay away from spray tans, however, because the aerosol fumes may not be safe for your lungs when inhaled. They may even enter your bloodstream, which means they could potentially affect your developing baby.

When you are pregnant there may be several reasons that may arise for you wanting to become tan. It is important to remember that you are probably safer to avoid tanning during pregnancy whether it be in a tanning bed or using tanning lotions.

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