All the physical changes that occur during pregnancy can make you feel unattractive. From acne breakouts to bouts of gassiness to swollen feet and ankles, being pregnant isn’t the sexiest feeling in the world. So naturally, tanning while pregnant sounds like a good idea. After all, having sun-kissed skin looks great, and it can do wonders for your self-esteem.
But just how safe is tanning when pregnant? Is it something to stay away from, or is it generally considered safe? The answer depends on the method of tanning.
Tanning Beds in Pregnancy
You may want to stay away from tanning beds until after your baby is born.
Although there is no conclusive proof that using tanning beds while pregnant is dangerous for your unborn baby, there’s plenty of ways that tanning beds can harm you.
Tanning beds emit ultraviolet radiation (UV rays), which are linked to causing malignant melanoma (skin cancer). You may have heard that tanning booths only emit UVA rays, so they aren’t dangerous to your health. This is not true. According to one research study, a person who visits a tanning bed ten times a year doubles her risk of developing melanoma – which is the deadly type of skin cancer. Sadly, melanoma is the only type of cancer that spreads to the placenta, which can spell danger to your unborn baby.
Despite the fact that there is no conclusive evidence of the dangers of tanning beds in pregnancy, most healthcare providers ask you to stay away from them. Lying in a tanning bed can increase your body temperature to a high level that may be dangerous to your developing baby, especially in the first trimester. A woman who has an elevated body temperature (above 102 degrees Fahrenheit) may end up having a baby with a spinal malformation.
Another reason you should stay away from the tanning bed when pregnant is that it may cause neural tube defects, like Spina bifida. There are several research studies that have linked exposure to UV rays to folic acid deficiency. It is well known that having a folic acid deficiency greatly increases your baby’s risk of neural tube defects.
Tanning beds force you to stay on your back for an extended period of time. During pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters, lying on your back can impair your blood circulation. This can lead you feeling lightheaded and dizzy.
Finally, your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy. So when you expose yourself to UV rays, whether in the sun or in a tanning bed, you increase your risk of developing chloasma (the “mask of pregnancy”) – a pregnancy symptom that causes dark splotches to appear all over your face. These dark splotches don’t always disappear after you give birth.
Tanning in the Sun When Pregnant
Tanning in the sun – whether at the beach or pool – isn’t the best idea when pregnant, either. Since your pregnancy skin is more sensitive, exposure to the sun can cause you to break out in chloasma patches. You may also get hives and heat rash from the sun.
For this reason, it’s a good idea for all pregnant women to limit their time outside. When you are in the sun, make sure that you slather on a high quality sunscreen with a high SPF. You should also wear a hat and stay in the shade, whenever possible.
At any point, if you get dizzy or start getting nauseous, go inside to cool off.
Self-Tanning Lotions and Sprays – Best Option in Pregnancy
If you’re desperate to have a tanned look while pregnant, your best option is to use a self-tanning lotions, creams, and sprays. Self-tanning products have dramatically increased their quality in the last couple of years, so you won’t end up looking like an Oompa Loompa. Many of the products out there have minimal odor and offer you immediate results.
The ingredients in self-tanning lotions and sprays are dyes that stay on your skin’s surface.
If you’re worried about the active ingredient in these self-tanning products, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), studies suggest that it may be absorbed into your skin, which means your unborn baby could be at risk. The effects of DHA in pregnancy aren’t known. Experts don’t know if it’s harmless or dangerous. For this reason, many doctors and midwives recommend that pregnant women play it safe and avoid using these products until after the first trimester.
Before using any tanning products, consult your doctor, midwife, or OB/GYN for their advice. They know what’s best for you in your specific situation.