There’s nothing quite like the warmth and brightness when the sun kisses your skin! Even if you’re having a bad day, a dose of vitamin D can work wonders, calming an anxious mind and fueling a tired body. It’s no wonder that a day spent poolside or at the beach with a loved one feels so good for the mind, body, and soul. This is especially true for expecting mamas. But what do you do if you end up with a sunburn during pregnancy?
Of course, as with many things in life, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. We’ve all experienced a nasty sunburn before, and it’s best for our health and wellness to avoid too much of the sun’s harmful UV rays. This is especially true for pregnant women, who have special considerations when it comes to sunburns.
Below, we’ve assembled a helpful Q&A below to tell you everything you need to know about sunburn during pregnancy.
Q: Are You More Susceptible to Sunburns During Pregnancy?
A: Yes. Pregnant women have increased hormone levels that make their skin extra sensitive, including extra sensitivity to the sun. With UV rays more easily penetrating the skin, pregnant women are more likely to burn. In fact, they will burn more quickly than they would when not pregnant, and they face a slightly elevated risk of developing skin cancer. However, there are other consequences of too much sun exposure for expectant mothers, too.
The same hormones that help your body grow and nurture a developing baby also send your skin’s pigment-producing cells into overdrive. This means that, instead of a tan, your exposure to the sun could have the effect of lifelong sun damage. Even more concerning to many women is that the sun can cause melasma in pregnant women; that is, gray or brown patches on the face or neck that may never go away.
Q: Can a Sunburn During Pregnancy Affect an Unborn Baby?
A: Yes, but only in rare circumstances. While moms-to-be must certainly worry about their own health and safety, many are more concerned about whether a sunburn can negatively impact a growing baby. Unfortunately, it can have some effects. First, getting too much sun can lead to dehydration. This is extra dangerous for pregnant women because dehydration can lead to pre-term contractions. You should be sure to drink plenty of water during the summer months and stay hydrated regardless of sun concerns!
Second, UV rays are known to break down folic acid in the body, which is incredibly important to the health and development of a baby still in utero. Specifically, folic acid helps to prevent birth defects. For this reason, it is especially dangerous for a pregnant woman to get too much sun exposure in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Q: How Can You Prevent a Sunburn While Pregnant?
A: In many ways, pregnant women can rely on the same methods they used to avoid sunburns before pregnancy. Namely, covering bare skin with clothing and using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 40. When it comes to sunscreen, however, expectant mamas must choose wisely. Different brands of sunscreen utilize different ingredients to protect your skin. I personally love Earth Mama Sunscreen + the stick is easy to roll on!
Some of these formulas, like those utilizing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, sit on top of the skin and are generally considered safe for pregnant women. However, sunscreens that contain oxybenzone should be avoided at all costs because it absorbs into the skin and can eventually reach the bloodstream – and your developing baby.
Even with these precautions, you should stay out of the sun during peak hours and drink lots of water. And, even though it’s tempting to show off your burgeoning belly, keep in mind that the sun will be able to hit it from all angles, thereby creating a greater risk of sunburn on your baby bump.
Q: How Do You Heal a Sunburn While Pregnant?
A: Even with safety precautions in place, we can’t always completely protect ourselves from sunburn. Fortunately, there are many products on the market to relieve pain and heal sunburned skin. Unfortunately, they aren’t all safe for pregnant women to use. For example, products that contain lidocaine should be avoided.
Instead, you should opt for aloe vera gel or oil to treat your sunburn. I recommend keeping it in the refrigerator until you need it, so you’ll enjoy even more cooling relief upon application.
A cool bath or shower may also help to safely soothe your sunburn. Some people swear by adding a bit of apple cider vinegar to the bathwater to treat their painful and inflamed skin. If you feel your anxiety level rising over concerns that the burn has affected your baby, practice deep breathing, and try to remain calm. The vast majority of sunburns are only skin-deep and are not likely to adversely impact your baby’s health.
Q: When Should You Visit Your Doctor for a Sunburn During Pregnancy?
A: Sunburns are often painful, but they typically fade within a few days even with no treatment protocols. They aren’t usually dangerous to mom or baby and can most often be treated at home if you’re experiencing discomfort. However, if a sunburn is so bad that the skin has bubbled up or developed drainage, see your doctor. You should also seek medical help if you are dehydrated, or overheated to the point of finding it difficult to breathe.
Symptoms to watch for are considerable thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and sweating or urinating less than usual. In rare instances, sunburn can lead to a fever and this is also a sign that medical attention is necessary. Be sure to see your doctor if you get sunburned and then develop a fever of 100 degrees or greater.
While there are certainly many dangers related to getting a sunburn while pregnant, expectant women don’t need to avoid the sun altogether. In fact, it’s actually healthy to get outside and soak up the sun and fresh air. Moderate exposure with these precautions observed will likely not result in any concerns. Still, if you’re wondering about a specific scenario or question, be sure to talk with your doctor and to follow his or her advice.
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