Advice on using sunbeds during pregnancy with information on possible risks to your baby and safety precautions you should take.
Although sun beds give you a bit of colour that can make you look and even feel a bit healthier, the reality is very different. For your own safety and the safety of your unborn baby the use of sun beds at any time during pregnancy is not recommended.
Sunbeds give you a tan by exposing you to UVA rays similar to those produced by the sun. These rays stimulate your body to produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin colour. However, intense exposure to UVA such as that provided during a session on a sunbed can also cause premature ageing and even skin cancer.
During pregnancy your skin becomes more sensitive because of the hormone changes your body is going through; for this reason you are more likely to burn and suffer from skin damage, especially with direct UV exposure. Additionally, many pregnant women suffer from Chloasma - this is the medical name for the darkened patches of skin that often develop on the face during pregnancy (it is often called the 'mask of pregnancy' because of its appearance around the eyes and lips and across the lips and cheek bones). Although these darkened patches are not harmful, their occurrence is linked to excess melanin production (thought to be stimulated by elevated oestrogen levels in the body) and so they are often exacerbated when skin is exposed to strong UV radiation. So, even just from a cosmetic perspective, sunbeds aren't a good idea during pregnancy.
Many sunbeds require you to lie on your back for the length of the session. This position is not recommended during the later stages of pregnancy as the weight of your baby presses on your internal organs and one of the major blood vessels that carries blood from your lower body to your heart (the inferior vena cava). Lying flat on your back for a sunbed session is not safe as it could result in dizziness and even fainting when combined with the elevated heat. Stand up beds are likely to be uncomfortable especially if you need to raise your arms and they could result in back or joint ache.
The use of sunbeds during pregnancy presents a serious risk of overheating. This is because it involves direct and prolonged exposure to UV light in a confined space. While this is bad for mother as your resting body temperature is higher than normal at this time, it also poses a risk to the health of your baby as maternal overheating has been linked to problems with spinal development.
Additionally, recent research has suggested that UV exposure may lower the levels of folate in the blood. This is potentially very serious as high levels of folate are essential in the early stages of pregnancy to help protect the fetus against developmental problems of the brain and spinal cord (including spinal bifida).
Further research is being carried out to discover whether UV exposure lowers maternal folate levels to such an extent that it poses a serious threat to the development of their infant. However, at the moment it is best to err on the side of caution and stay away from sunbeds especially in the early stages of your pregnancy.
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