No, it's not really safe to sunbathe when you're pregnant. Technically, sunbathing's not recommended for anyone but it's especially not for pregnant women.
Obviously, that doesn't mean you can't go out in the sun at all – just that it's not wise to grab a sun lounger and lie around on it for hours on a hot day...
The expert view
"We don't advocate sunbathing – as lying in the sun in order to get a tan – whether you're pregnant or not," says Dr Sweta Rai of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD). "But if you are pregnant, sunbathing can affect sun-induced skin damage, particularly freckles and moles."
Pregnancy hormones can change the pigmentation of your moles. So, if you sunbathe in pregnancy, your moles are likely to change further, to become more noticeable and darker.
"With sunbathing," explains Dr Sweta, "you get something called chronic low grade sun exposure." This is what ages your skin, and it can increase your risk, however small, of getting non-melanoma skin cancers. "And when you’re pregnant ," says Dr Sweta, "you’re also slightly immune-suppressed, so you’re at a higher risk of developing these sun-induced problems."
Can sunbathing harm your baby?
There's no current research to suggest that it can.
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"We have no way of knowing whether it’ll harm your baby or not," Dr Rai adds. "We don’t think it will, but it’s still not advocated."
However, if, before you were pregnant, you were a lie-on-your-back-on-a-beachtowel kind of sunbather, it's worth knowing that lying on your back in later pregnancy, can compress a big vein in your abdomen called the inferior vena cava, and that can reduce the blood going back to your heart, and the blood supply going to your womb.
That's why experts recommend sleeping on your left side, rather than your back, when you're pregnant.
What can I do to protect my skin in the sun?
If you're not 100% convinced you're able to go all summer without at least a little time catching some rays, then make sure you're doing the following things to ensure your skin's as protected as it can be:
- Wear SPF30 sunscreen or higher
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours
- Sit in the shade, not directly in the sun
- Try to avoid the sun during its peak hours of 11am to 3pm
About our expert Dr Sweta Rai
Dr Sweta is an expert in skin cancer recognition and skin cancer surgery. She trained in he UK and the US and is a member of the British Association of Dermatologists, The British Society of Dermatologic Surgery, The American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and the Royal Society of Medicine. She speaks regularly at national and international meetings and has been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals.
Pic: Getty Images
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