While there’s no clear evidence that using a tanning bed while pregnant is harmful to your baby, it’s best to avoid tanning when you’re expecting.
Tanning is a tough habit to break, especially if you want to maintain your sun-kissed skin year-round. However, many medical experts advise against tanning in a tanning bed while pregnant for a number of reasons. While there’s no clear evidence that indicates that tanning will directly hurt a growing fetus, most take a ‘better to be safe than sorry’ approach.
While tanning may not hurt your baby, it could still put you at risk.
“Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, exposure to the sun puts you at risk for premature aging and malignant melanoma (skin cancer),” according to the American Pregnancy Association. “Some studies also link UV rays and folic acid deficiency. Folic acid prevents neutral tube defects, such as spina bifida, and is especially important in the first trimester.” Tanning beds use UVA rays which can have the same harmful effect.
What the Experts Say
While pregnant women can’t avoid all types of radiation, it’s best to limit any unnecessary exposure. Tanning beds are rarely a good idea, pregnant or not. If you want a safer alternative to tanner skin, try a pregnancy-safe self-tanning lotion instead. Here’s what some experts have to say about tanning while pregnant.
“Regular use of tanning beds is a recent trend. There is little evidence that radiation from a tanning bed would cause harm to the fetus. Lights in a tanning bed emit UVA or ultraviolet A, radiation which is similar to the tanning rays emitted by the sun. UVA radiation is not able to penetrate through the skin and abdominal tissue to expose or harm the fetus.”
Dr. Low Chai Ling, Look Fabulous During and After Pregnancy
“Getting a tan while pregnant is not recommended, whether you use the sun or a tanning bed. Instead, you can fake a tan with makeup or spray-on bronzers. Check with your practitioner before using a spray, however, because some contain chemicals that you don’t want on your skin while pregnant.”
Robin Elise Weiss, The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion
“Tanning is never good for you – it increases the risk of skin cancer and early aging. During pregnancy, your face may be particularly sensitive to the sun, developing long-lasting pigment changes, called melasma, on your chin, cheeks, and forehead after sun exposure.”
Marjorie Greenfield, The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book
“Your baby is the most susceptible to negative effects from ultraviolet (UV) radiation during your first trimester and at the beginning of the second trimester. The foundation for brain development is being laid during this time.”
Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN, Tanning While Pregnant: Is It Dangerous?
“Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays, which is the same type of harmful radiation found in sunlight. Getting a tan using a sunbed is not safer than tanning in the sun. In some cases, sunbed use can be more harmful.”
National Health Service, Are Sunbeds Safe to Use During Pregnancy?
Risks of Using Tanning Beds While Pregnant
While there is no conclusive evidence that the use of tanning beds while pregnant will have harmful effects to the developing fetus, it’s best to avoid the risk. One of the biggest risks of tanning (pregnant or not) is the development of skin cancer.
UV radiation can result in premature skin aging, such as lax skin, wrinkles, brown spots, and more. Frequent tanners are also at risk for developing skin cancer. In fact, those who use tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
While it has not been confirmed, some medical experts believe that using a tanning bed can be harmful to the fetus. While in a tanning bed, your body experiences an elevated core temperature due to the intense heat in an enclosed space.
This can be especially risky during the first trimester and can result in a range of health problems, such as miscarriage and birth defects like spina bifida, according to Parents Magazine. Spending an extended amount of time lying flat on your back on a tanning bed can also be dangerous due to the weight of the uterus which can slow blood flow to the fetus.
Non-Harmful Alternatives to Tanning Beds
While traditional tanning may be off the table, know that there are some alternatives that can help you achieve sun-kissed skin without the harmful effects of UV radiation. Pregnancy-safe self-tanning lotions, foams, and creams are typically safe to use while pregnant and can give a similar look to tanning beds.
When shopping for a self-tanning product, opt for a natural tanner that does not contain a slew of chemicals. It’s also ideal to choose a self-tanning product containing moisturizer to soothe and hydrate your dry, hormonal skin.
Many women experience a natural glow while pregnant which eliminates the need to use tanning beds. To keep you and baby safe, it’s best to embrace your natural skin tone while you’re expecting.