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Sun protection during pregnancy

Advice on safely enjoying time in the sun during your pregnancy with information on different forms of sun protection including sun cream, lotion and block.
During pregnancy you may notice that your skin changes and becomes more sensitive, this a side effect of the hormonal changes your body is going through. However, it is important to remember that this increased sensitivity also extends to sun exposure so it is important to take precautions.

While everybody needs a certain amount of sun exposure as it provides us with vitamin D and is essential in helping our bodies absorb calcium for strong bone development, prolonged exposure is not at all beneficial. This is especially the case during pregnancy as it puts you at risk from dehydration, sunburn, overheating and chloasma (excessive darkening of the skin), not to mention accelerated ageing and skin cancer.

While a sun tan can make you feel and look healthier, the reality can be very different for you and your baby. For this reason it is essential that you get into a routine of using effective sun protection during your pregnancy.

Sun Creams

Sun creams and lotions are applied directly to the skin and form an invisible barrier that protects you from the sun's harmful UV rays.

Choose a broad spectrum sun cream that provides you with high factor protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It is currently recommended tha you use a sun cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, although if you are likely to be in the sun for longer periods or have lighter colouring, a higher SPF is likely to be more appropriate.

You should apply sun cream approximately 30 minutes before going out in the sun and cover the parts of your body that are going to be exposed. It can be worth investing in a moisturiser with an included SPF factor to protect your face on a daily basis, especially if you have patches of chloasma.

To be effective sun cream needs to be applied regularly and generously - make sure you cover your feet, ears and hands as these areas are often forgotten. The vast majority of sun creams are suitable for use during pregnancy, but organic and sensitive varieties are widely available if you prefer a more gentle option.

Cover up

When out in the sun for prolonged periods you should wear a wide brimmed hat to protect your face and shoulders from the sun, this will also help to prevent overheating. Try to wear loose fitting, light coloured clothes that cover your limbs but still allow air to circulate. Cotton based fabrics tend to be cooler than synthetic varieties and will be less likely to make you sweat. A good pair of sunglasses with protective lenses are also a good idea.

Shade

During pregnancy it is best not to spend too long sitting or lying in direct sunlight especially during the first trimester. When outside try to stay in the shade as much as possible during peak sunlight hours (11 - 3pm). A hand held parasol can be a good way to keep you shaded from the sun even if it does seem a little old fashioned!

Hydration

It is particularly important to stay well hydrated during pregnancy so if you are in a hot environment for any length of time you should make a special effort to drink lots of fluid - preferably water. This will also help to keep you cool and reduce swelling and water retention.

Overheating

It is important to avoid overheating especially in the first trimester as it it has been linked to problems with spinal development. For this reason you should avoid prolonged periods sitting in direct sun light, invest in a good fan, avoid sunbeds and keep well hydrated. If you feel especially hot try putting your feet in a bowl of cool water or placing cool flannels on you body (keep a couple in the fridge for emergencies!)

By taking a few sensible precautions on a daily basis you will be able to enjoy the sun safely during your pregnancy.

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