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Safe Skin, Safe Mommy: Pregnancy Precautions for Sunny Days

June 15, 2020

If you’re pregnant over the summer, don’t be afraid to get outside and soak up some sun! While pregnancy can make you more sensitive to UV rays and the heat, severe health complications are unlikely to arise, and there are many simple ways to stay safe and comfortable.

“Don’t let the mommy blogs fool you. There is little clinical evidence behind sun exposure and heat being harmful to you and your baby,” said Dr. Jessica Pescatore, OB/GYN at Jefferson Health in New Jersey. “As long as you listen to your body, you can spend plenty of time outdoors. Not to mention, it’s essential to absorb vitamin D for a healthy immune system.”

During pregnancy, due to hormonal changes, you become more susceptible to skin discoloration, especially when exposed to the sun. Many women will develop “the mask of pregnancy,” or melasma, causing brownish patches (and sometimes freckles) to appear on the face, says Dr. Pescatore.

“Melasma isn’t dangerous, and it typically fades after pregnancy,” explained Dr. Pescatore. “Of course, the more time you spend in the sun, the more prominent the patches are likely to become.”

“Your main concern should be your body temperature and hydration,” continued Dr. Pescatore.

Pregnant women naturally have an elevated basal body temperature – or body temperature when resting – so they’re going to feel much warmer than someone who is not pregnant. The warmer they become, the more they’re going to sweat, thus increasing their risk for dehydration.

“Generally, mild cases of dehydration are easy to treat and have no long-term health impacts,” said Dr. Pescatore. “However, if a pregnant woman is severely dehydrated, she may experience contractions, a reduction in breast milk, and possible birth defects.”

Remember to always carry a water bottle with you when you leave the house, and replenish your fluids throughout the day. It’s recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, especially when it’s hot out!

In addition to staying hydrated, preventing sunburn is a must. Even though pregnancy will not make you more susceptible to burning, the burn itself can raise your body temperature and further dehydrate you.

“You’ll need to be a bit more cautious on the beach, facing the reflections from the sun and the water, than if you were just in your backyard,” said Dr. Pescatore. “Also, whether you’re on the beach or sitting pool-side, it’s completely safe to wear a bikini. Just remember to be extra thorough when applying sunscreen, now that there’s more surface area to cover!”

Dr. Pescatore’s sun safety tips for expecting mothers – and others – include:

  • Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – when UV-A and UV-B rays are strongest.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum, mineral sunscreen (of at least SPF 30) around 30 minutes prior to heading outside and reapply every two hours. If you swim, you will need to reapply after. (Keep in mind that a higher SPF does not grant you immunity; you cannot stay out in the sun as long as you want without reapplying!)
  • Remember the teaspoon rule: one teaspoon of sunscreen covers the neck and face, two teaspoons cover the torso/back, and one teaspoon for each extremity.
  • To prevent darkening of the linea nigra (or the pregnancy line on your belly), the American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying (and reapplying) SPF 50 to the area.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing.

“Above all else, remember to take breaks, especially on those brutally hot days,” continued Dr. Pescatore. “Go inside or sit under a shaded area.”

If you develop a severe sunburn, coupled with body aches, headache, fever, chills, or dizziness, reach out to your doctor, as these could be signs of sun poisoning and heat exhaustion.

To learn more about Women’s & Children’s services at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, click HERE.