Who doesn’t love basking in the sun and feeling the rays warm your skin? While the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D, it also poses a lot of risks to our skin and health.
Too much exposure to sunlight greatly increases your chances of developing skin cancer later in life. Regardless of whether or not you are expecting, you need to be careful and take some precautions when laying out in the sun.
What if you have a fabulous beach vacation scheduled already? We bet you don’t want to miss out on the fun just because you’re pregnant, so here are some key things you need to know about sunbathing while pregnant.
Know the risks
In addition to the risks of regular sunbathing (sunburn, skin cancer, etc.), sunbathing while pregnant adds a whole new dimension. Exposure to the sun can increase the core temperature of the pregnant woman. You could more easily become dehydrated which would lead to symptoms of preterm labor. This, in turn, can elevate the temperature of the fetus, which can cause brain damage if raised high enough or long enough.
Sue Jacobs of the Royal College of Midwives, says this is more on the extreme levels of things, as you’d have to be in very, very, very hot temperatures to make your baby actually want to escape the heat by inducing an early labor! She also notes that a bit of exposure to the sun is quite alright for a mom-to-be as it boosts you up with the necessary vitamin D for bone health and mood.
Pregnancy also increases your skin’s sensitivity. It’s not uncommon for things like hives, heat rash or skin discoloration or pigmentation to flare up during this time, and lying in the sun can aggravate it even more.
While pregnant, the hormones, mainly estrogen, in your body actually can increase the risk of chloasma or mask of pregnancy, and other sun effects when exposed to the sun and its UV rays. These darkened spots, usually on the forehead and across the nose, may or may not retreat after pregnancy.
Exposure to the sun, particularly on that results in a sunburn, can increase the risk of cancer (melanoma).
On the beach
That said, no one wants to become a recluse while pregnant. As long as you are wise about it, you can still enjoy your outdoorsy lifestyle. Experts do not advise you to stay indoors and say that a little bit of sun won’t do much harm if you use an effective sunblock with the right SPF factor (mostly SPF 30), as broad-spectrum UV protection may help negate these sinister effects.
So, don’t forget that sunblock if you’re stepping out in the sun. Make sure you wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply a rich lotion before and after sun exposure to combat the damaging and drying effects of the sun. Look for the term “broad spectrum” on whatever tube you reach for when applying sunblock.
Consider ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are physical sunscreens rather than chemical. These ingredients are able to physically block the harmful rays from penetrating your skin, similar to wearing a shirt or mask. It’s safe for mother and baby!
When sunbathing while pregnant, keeping hydrated is the next most important thing you can do for yourself, after applying sunscreen. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are getting enough fluids, monitor the color of your urine. It should be the color of a very light lemonade. If it is any darker, you are already at risk of dehydration and should chug water immediately.
Enjoy In Moderation
As with everything in life, the sun is best enjoyed in moderation. You want to be able to have fun playing outdoors with your family or lounging by the pool without increasing your risks of dehydration, skin cancer, and skin discoloration.
If you are on the beach, or outside on a hot sunny day, stay in the shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat and drink plenty of water. You should also wear a good, floppy hat to protect your face from the sun when spending the day at the beach. Pack an umbrella or tent as well so that you can take shelter from the sun when you need it.
If you feel dizzy, tired or nauseous, get into an air-conditioned space as soon as you can. Overheating and dehydration are not good for your developing baby, so avoid it where possible. Plan your activities to avoid the hottest times of the day, when the sun is directly overhead. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid sunbathing from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Your risk of sunburn is much higher at these times.
Be smart about sunbathing while pregnant. Always apply an ample amount of sunscreen and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Make sure to moisturize your skin before and after sun exposure as well. If you still aren’t keen to risk it in the sun but want that tan, stick to self-tanning products. Find what works best for you and your pregnancy.