Is It Safe To Go Out In The Sun?

During pregnancy, is it safe to be outside in the sun? And is it okay to use sunless tanning creams? Family Physician Jane Forester has some information you should think about before going outside.
Jane Forester

Your question
During pregnancy, is it safe for me to be in the sun -- and if so, for how long at a time? Also, are sunless tanning lotions safe? - Crystal

The expert answers

Your query forces me, as a physician who has seen many skin cancers related to sun exposure, to warn you about all the hazards of the sun. I would say that it's much more harmful during pregnancy just to convince people to stay out of the sun for general well-being, however, this is simply not true. The risk of sun exposure is no greater or less during pregnancy.

Often during pregnancy, a woman's skin becomes more sun sensitive, causing earlier burning. This is thought to be due to the change in hormone levels. My only caveat is the risk of dehydration to both mother and fetus, so keep on top of your hydration status and double the fluids that you think you need. Do not rely on thirst as an indicator of hydration status. With dehydration,remember that not only will your heart rate increase but if it gets too high the fetus may not get the necessary oxygen that it needs to stay healthy.

By following standard guidelines on sun exposure you should do fine. Try to avoid direct sun exposure during times of greatest intensity (between 10AM and 3PM) always wear SPF of at least 15 and reapply every 2 hours and each time after swimming. Many people have sensitivities to the ingredients in suntan lotions. Most common irritants are PABA (papa-aminobenzoic acid) and fragrances, so purchase lotions without these unnecessary additives. Remember to wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses and limit your exposure beginning with 20 minutes and slowly building from there.

During pregnancy,some women develop Chloasma, known as "the mask of pregnancy," on their forehead, nose and cheeks. These are dark patches in light-skinned women and light patches in dark-skinned women. This facial discoloration generally fades after delivery, however, sun exposure can worsen the severity of chloasma.

Lastly, you had questioned the use of sunless tanning lotions during pregnancy. My very conservative approach to this would be to avoid anything that could be absorbed into your system unnecessarily during pregnancies. We never know all of the effects of the various chemicals used in these sunless tanning lotions. Remember you do not want the beautiful, natural "glow of pregnancy" to be overshadowed by a tan.

Jane Forester
Family Physician

Tags: sun

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