Pros And Cons Of Tanning While Pregnant

Pros And Cons Of Tanning While Pregnant

Article by Macy Tollefson – doula, breastfeeding specialist & prenatal yoga teacher

If you find yourself pregnant in the summer or are lucky enough to live in a warm climate year-round, you’re probably wondering: Is sun tanning safe while pregnant?

With all the conflicting opinions and studies out there, it can be so confusing to know whether or not it is safe to be out in the sun if you are pregnant.

While there are pros to soaking up the sun, such as producing vitamin D and lowering blood pressure, there are also some major risks. Excessive tanning can cause skin cancers, including melanoma, and may also lead to your baby developing congenital disabilities.

It’s important to be careful when considering tanning during pregnancy!

Keep reading to find out if there is such thing as safe tanning methods for expecting mothers, and how to best protect you and your baby.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Benefits Of Tanning While Pregnant

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) light. In high doses, this can be damaging, however SOME direct exposure to the sun can be beneficial.

Some health benefits of sunbathing include:

  • Vitamin D production
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Placenta and fetal health

Now let’s dive deeper into pros of tanning while pregnant:

Vitamin D

Sunshine helps us develop vitamin D, which boosts our immune systems and plays an essential role in bone health. However, it doesn’t take long at all for your body to produce the amount of vitamin D it needs.

One dermatologist suggests that 10-15 minutes of unprotected time in the sun, 2-3 times a week, provides your body with all of the vitamin D it needs1.

Any extra vitamin D production is simply discarded by your body, meaning that any sun exposure outside of those 10-15 minutes is not beneficial.

Lower Blood Pressure

Some studies have found that sunlight can actually lower your blood pressure, and decrease risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks2.

Fetal Health

One study found that direct exposure to the sun during pregnancy was linked to higher infant birth weight and lower risk of preterm births. They concluded that limited time in the sun helped prevent problems with the placenta, and therefore prevent issues such as preeclampsia, miscarriage and stillbirths, as a result3.

Pros and cons of tanning during pregnancy

Health Risks Of Tanning While Pregnant

Unfortunately, there are far more risks and disadvantages to spending too much time in the sun or tanning while pregnant.

Some of these risks include:

  • Overheating
  • Dehydration
  • Skin cancer (including melanoma)
  • Sunburn
  • Sunstroke
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Skin damage

Let’s talk more about the cons of tanning while pregnant:


Pregnant women are at a much higher risk of overheating and increasing their body temperature to an unhealthy level4. Increasing your body temperature too much is especially dangerous for your unborn baby and presents a high risk of developing congenital disabilities or neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.


A very common pregnancy struggle is staying hydrated and keeping up with the extra amount of fluids that your growing baby takes from you. Spending time in the sun only increases your risk of dehydration, which can lead to Braxton Hicks (uterine contractions), feel dizzy and fainting.

Skin Cancers

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages your skin’s cellular DNA, which creates genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. This includes developing melanoma, which is the most serious (and deadly!) form of skin cancer. ANY amount of time in the sun increases your risk.


This is probably the most common repercussion of too much time in the sun, however the damage does not disappear when the burn does. In fact, 5 or more sunburns in your LIFETIME dramatically increases your risk of developing skin cancer5.


This is the most severe form of heat-related illnesses, and is extremely dangerous for you and your developing baby. Heatstroke can lead to heart, muscle, kidney and brain damage6.

Pregnancy Complications

Some studies show that UV rays can actually break down folic acid and lead to low folate status during your pregnancy. This is extremely dangerous for your baby- keep reading below to find out why!

Skin Damage

While not necessarily a health “risk,” prolonged sun exposure can bring on early wrinkles and make you age prematurely. It also causes skin issues, such as blisters, peeling skin and hyperpigmentation.

can you sunbathe during when pregnant

Pros And Cons Of Tanning While Pregnant – Final Decision

In my opinion, you should AVOID tanning in the sun (and artificial UV light) during pregnancy- as much as possible! With all things considered, it is risky to sunbathe during pregnancy. The cons absolutely outweigh the pros.

Look, I totally understand wanting the glow of sun-kissed skin, and luckily there are safer ways to achieve that!

Self tanning lotions and creams are considered generally safe, as long as the ingredients are non toxic. Self tanners are applied to the outer layer of skin, and are not absorbed into the body. They provide a safe, temporary bronzing color (with brown pigment), that fades in the days/weeks following application.

Most tanning products have the plant-derived, active ingredient, DHA (dihydroxyacetone), and while not much pregnancy-specific research is available on the subject, there is no reason to think it could be a risk to your pregnancy7. Dihydroxyacetone DHA has been used in cosmetics since the 1960s, and no problems have been reported.

With that being said, some experts recommend you wait until after your first trimester is over before applying fake tan creams, just to be sure.

Keep in mind, spray tans should be avoided entirely, as INHALING these self tanning ingredients is a whole other issue. This is not considered safe for pregnant women… or really anybody at all.

Sunbathing During Pregnancy – Safety Tips

While prolonged sunbathing should be avoided as much as possible, I understand that there are many benefits to being outside and in the sun.

If you’re a beach lover (like myself), or find yourself spending a lot of time in the sun while you are pregnant, keep these safety tips in mind:

Remember, applying a self tanner (or having a previous tan) does NOT protect you from UV exposure. You should always follow the guidelines above when spending any amount of time in the sun.

Is tanning during pregnancy safe

Why Mineral Sunscreen Is Better Than Chemical Sunscreen For Pregnant Women?

There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral.

Mineral sunscreen is by far the safest recommended sunscreen option for pregnant women. It sits on TOP of your skin to create a barrier that blocks and reflects the sun rays off of your body.

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, go directly INTO your skin to absorb the UV light, break it down into heat, and then release it from the body. They use risky chemical UV absorbers like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are ingredients that can be harmful to our bodies and your growing baby.

Look for mineral sunscreens that are made from a non toxic substance called NON-NANO zinc oxide, which is not absorbed into your body and therefore poses no health risks to you or your baby.

Can Tanning While Pregnant Harm The Baby?

Unfortunately, there are no clear findings on whether or not UV radiation can directly harm the fetus. However tanning and heat exposure can lead to overheating and sunstroke, which can seriously harm your baby.

Some studies8 suggest that there is a link between too much sun exposure and low folate levels, as UV rays can break down folic acid. Folic acid is ESSENTIAL during pregnancy- especially in the first trimester, when it is responsible for developing the baby’s neural system (i.e brain and spinal cord). This is why doctors recommend taking prenatal vitamins, to ensure you are getting enough folate.

Tanning in the sun is not the only culprit- even some fake tanning options can be harmful to both you and your baby. Pregnant ladies should absolutely avoid tanning with:

  • Tanning beds
  • Tanning pills
  • Spray tanning

Why Do You Tan Better When Pregnant?

In short, the hormonal changes throughout your pregnancy are what makes your skin more susceptible to colouration and dark patches9.

During pregnancy, you may also experience sensitive skin10, which means prolonged time in the sunlight can lead to burning faster or developing heat rash. Everyone’s skin will react differently, so it’s important to take the necessary precautions to avoid damaging your skin.

Has Anyone Used Sunbeds While Pregnant?

Yes, pregnant women have used sunbeds before- however not without risk.

While the research is divided on the effects of pregnancy specifically, most suggest that using tanning beds is NOT safer than tanning in the sunshine- in fact, they could be more dangerous.

Given the increased risk that UV light poses (as discussed above), some medical professionals recommend that EVERYBODY should avoid sunbeds, regardless of being pregnant or not11.

Article By Macy Tollefson

Macy Tollefson is a full spectrum doula, breastfeeding specialist and prenatal yoga teacher. She is passionate about guiding the modern mama on her journey through the beautiful (and wild) transformation of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Macy envisions a world where every mother has access to the resources she needs, and follows her intuition to make the best decisions about what is right for her and her baby.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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