Tanned, golden limbs can give your body the extra glow you want during pregnancy. There's no definitive evidence to indicate that tanning beds harm your developing child during early pregnancy. However, medical experts indicate that the heat from tanning beds may put your baby at risk for spinal malformation. Additionally, the UV rays from tanning beds can exacerbate the hyperpigmentation that can occur during pregnancy.
1. Tanning Beds vs. Sun
Your skin begins to tan when exposed to the sun, a tanning bed, or sun lamp. Tanning beds generate ultraviolet rays not too dissimilar to those emitted by the sun. When exposed to UV rays, your skin produces excess amounts of melanin, or pigment, which gives you a "healthy" glow. However, a tan is actually your skin's way of defending you from the sun and protecting you against sunburn. Although the effects of UV rays on your skin are essentially the same, there are specific concerns associated with tanning beds during early pregnancy.
Tanning beds can increase your body temperature to more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Overheating can occur not only in a tanning bed, but in a hot tub, sauna or steam room. Higher than normal body temperatures may cause spinal malformations in your developing child. Most doctors will advise you to avoid any activity that makes your body temperature rise.
Chloasma, a type of hyperpigmentation that causes dark, blotchy patches to form on your face and neck, occurs in 70 percent of pregnancies. Exposing your skin to UV rays during pregnancy makes the "mask of pregnancy" more noticeable. Chloasma occurs only on the epidermis, and it almost always fades after you give birth. However, the best way to prevent is to protect your skin from UV rays altogether by avoiding tanning beds and the sun. Whenever you go outdoors, make sure to wear a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor of 30.
4. Skin Damage
UV rays are damaging to your skin, even if you aren't expecting. Exposure to UV light from tanning beds and the sun can make your skin age prematurely, giving it a tough, wrinkled appearance and texture. But more harmful is the threat of skin cancer linked to sunburn. Research shows that your risk of melanoma goes up by 75 percent if you use a tanning bed.
5. Safe Tanning
The safest way to get a sun-kissed glow during pregnancy is to use sunless tanning lotion. The active ingredient in sunless tanning lotions, dihydroxyacetone, hasn't been proven to be harmful to pregnant women. None the less, your doctor may tell you to wait until after your first trimester goes by before you use it.
- American Pregnancy Association: What's a Sun Goddess to Do During Pregnancy?
- American Academy of Dermatology: Indoor Tanning Fact Sheet
- American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: Melasma
- BabyCenter.com: Tanning During Pregnancy (Sandra Johson, M.D.)
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Skin Conditions During Pregnancy
- MayoClinic.com: Sunburn (Causes)
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images