Pregnancy & Tanning: What's a Sun Goddess To Do?

Pregnancy and Tanning

pregnant woman at the beachAs soon as summer is here, shorts, sundresses, and sleeveless tops make their grand entrance into the wardrobe; but who likes to wear them without a little sun-kissed glow! So how can you bronze your skin during pregnancy? Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, there are considerations for your skin and placing yourself at risk for premature aging and malignant melanoma (skin cancer). The following information will help you think through tanning in a bed, on the beach or with a little help from a bottle.

In a Bed

There are no studies that provide conclusive evidence that tanning beds are harmful to the baby during pregnancy. UV light is not in direct contact with the baby, however the following are some things to consider. Most Ob/Gyn's and midwives do not advise any activity that will raise your body temperature in the first trimester such as hot tubs, saunas, and tanning beds, because overheating may be associated with spinal malformations in the baby. Interestingly, some studies suggest a link between UV rays and folic acid deficiency. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid is especially critical in the first trimester. After the first trimester, it may be ok to have 10-15 minute sessions as long as you are lying on your side or standing up to prevent restricted blood flow.

Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids to prevent light-headedness and dehydration. During pregnancy your skin is more susceptible to burning, so you may want to make adjustments to your time in a tanning salon. Obtain a note from your doctor before going to the tanning salon, as most reputable tanning salons require one. Both tanning beds and the sun might make you more prone to chloasma, the dark splotches that can appear on the face during pregnancy. All things considered, you may want to avoid the tanning bed all together and look for a good sunless tanning lotion.

On the Beach

Many of the same concerns apply to tanning in the sun as tanning in a bed. Pregnancy may make your skin more sensitive and the sun may cause hives or heat rash. If this happens, stay in the shade and check out a sunless tanning option. The same safety measures should be taken whether you are pregnant or not; drink plenty of water, use of sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and wear a hat. If you feel light headed, nauseated or tired, go inside. Long hours in the sun that result in burning should be avoided.

From a Bottle

This may be the best option of them all. Avoiding UV rays, pregnant or not, will ensure younger, healthier skin with each passing year. There are so many different kinds of sunless tanning lotions, creams, and foams that have very good results. Many of the newer varieties have minimal odors and provide immediate color (so you won't have to walk around naked for the whole day).

The only concern is whether the active ingredient, dihydorxyacetone (DHA) is able to penetrate the skin. Studies do not confirm that it can, but some doctors and midwives encourage women to wait until after the first trimester, just to play it safe. DHA has been used in cosmetics since 1960 and no problems have been reported. If it did penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream, it wouldn't be safe for anyone, pregnant or not. Even if you have used sunless tanners before, try a patch of skin first. Your skin may be more sensitive and it may cause irritation.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association.