Is a Tanning Bed Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time for many expectant moms, especially when they come home from their first prenatal appointment with a long list of pregnancy dos and don’ts. For pregnant women concerned about maintaining a tan, the answer to the question “Is a tanning bed safe during pregnancy?” can be somewhat unclear, as the threat to a developing fetus from tanning beds has yet to be proved.
However, most doctors advise that, though there is no concrete proof that tanning beds are unsafe during pregnancy, it is best to avoid them.
One perceived threat to the fetus from tanning beds is the excessive, direct exposure to UV rays.
UV rays have been found to result in folic acid deficiency, which can make the fetus more susceptible to malformations such as spina bifida, but there is no evidence to prove that UV rays from tanning beds penetrate far enough to reach the fetus.
Another risk of using a tanning bed during pregnancy is the possible elevation of the mother’s body temperature to a level that can prove harmful to the fetus. Overheating has been found to cause spinal malformations in a developing fetus, especially in the first trimester.
However, regulations governing tanning beds in the United States limit the maximum temperature to 100 degrees, and most cases of overheating causing malformations result from prolonged temperatures of 102 degrees or more.
Another consideration is the potential damage to the mother’s skin. During pregnancy, a woman’s skin is more sensitive to UV rays and more likely to sustain sunburns and splotching, called chloasma.
For this reason, most medical experts recommend that pregnant women avoid the sun and artificial UV rays found in tanning beds.
If pregnant women do decide to use tanning beds, several precautions should be made. Women should consult their physicians to hear their viewpoint on the matter and learn more about the validity of potential risks.
Pregnant women who use tanning beds should stay hydrated, keep cool and limit tanning to as few sessions as possible.
Those who want a safer option for tanning during their pregnancy should consider using sunless tanning lotion after the first trimester. Some doctors advise against using the lotions in early pregnancy in case the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone, can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream.
(Studies have not shown that it can.) Most doctors agree that sunless tanning lotions are fine during the second and third trimesters.