Here’s what experts think about lying out in the sun when you’re expecting.

By Elizabeth Atkin

In a nutshell

No, it’s not really safe to sunbathe when you’re pregnant. In fact, sunbathing’s not recommended by experts for anyone, technically – but 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 deckchair and lie around in it for hours…

The expert view

Ahhh, sunbathing ???

Whether you’re simply in your back garden embracing the UK heatwave or you’re holidaying abroad, it’s always tempting to park your bum on a sun lounger and soak up the rays for an hour or 2.

Bronzing your bikini bump outdoors in the sunshine can seem like a fun way to spend an afternoon but it is important to remember that experts say that sunbathing’s generally not recommended at all.

“Whether you’re pregnant or not pregnant, sunbathing – as lying in the sun in order to get a tan – is not advocated,” says Dr Sweta Rai of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).

And as Dr Rai tell us, it’s certainly not something that’s recommended by skincare professionals during pregnancy.

“Particularly when you’re pregnant, your moles can change due to hormonal influences,” she explains.

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, you get something called chronic low grade sun exposure or sunburn,” she adds. (Chronic low grade sun exposure is what ages your skin, and can increase your risk, however small, of getting non-melanoma skin cancers).

“And when you’re pregnant you’re also slightly immune-suppressed, so your immunity is lower, therefore you’re at a higher risk of developing sun-induced problems.”


Can sunbathing harm your baby?

There’s no research to suggest that it would.

“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 else do I need to know about safe sleeping when 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 it’s peak hours of 11am to 3pm.

Finally, don’t forget there are safer ways to get that golden glow you’re after ?

While sunbeds and spray tans are considered a mum-to-be no-go, you can always use self-tanner lotions and other safe products.

The short answer—not quite. Sizzling in the rays is not actually recommended for anybody, but especially not those expecting. Here’s why.

“Whether you’re pregnant or not pregnant, sunbathing – as lying in the sun in order to get a tan – is not advocated,” says Dr Sweta Rai of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).

Basking in the sunshine leads to chronic low-grade sun exposure—sunburn, for short—and this prematurely ages your skin. More importantly, it heightens your risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

When it comes to pregnancy, the hormonal fluctuations can ramp up the effects of sun exposure; moles get darker, and also, the immune-suppression typical to pregnancy means you’re less protected against sun-induced problems.

There is no conclusive evidence that sunbathing harms unborn babies—but only because creating such a study is impossible.

“We have no way of knowing whether it’ll harm your baby or not,” Dr Rai explains. “We don’t think it will, but it’s still not advocated.”

Sunbathing While Pregnant Safety

Even if you don’t plan to soak up some solar energy—at least it directly—still ensure you use SPF30 sunscreen or higher when going outside. Reapply every two hours, and choose the shady spots, especially between 11am to 3pm, when the sun is at its hottest.


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