Sunburn While Pregnant – Can It Hurt My Baby?

Sunburn while pregnant

Article by Jessica Pierce – Registered Nurse & Nationally Registered Paramedic

Summer is a great time to show off that beautiful baby bump – but what if you accidentally get too much sun?

Sunburns are no fun at any point, but many pregnant women are extra worried about whether getting one will hurt their unborn baby. In this article, we’re unpacking both the risks and benefits of sun exposure during pregnancy, and how to keep you and your little one safe!

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Sunbathing While Pregnant – Risks & Benefits

There are some benefits to getting your baby bump out in the sun! Check out this list of great reasons to get some fresh air in the sunlight1:

  • Exposure to the sun is how your body makes vitamin D, an important nutrient that has been linked to the prevention of preeclampsia, a dangerous rise in blood pressure during pregnancy. Vitamin D can also be taken orally if needed, however.
  • Regular time outside and sun exposure has been linked to a greater sense of emotional well-being. This is a valuable benefit at any time, but it’s extra important for pregnant women!

There are definitely some risks to sunbathing while pregnant, however. Here are some reasons why safe sun exposure is absolutely crucial:

  • Getting a severe sunburn during pregnancy increases your risk for dehydration and overheating. If your body temperature increases too much, this can result in premature uterine contractions.
  • In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the sun’s rays can break down the folic acid in your body. Folic acid is crucial to prevent birth defects, so make sure you’re getting enough in your diet from healthy foods like dark leafy vegetables.

If you’re still hesitating whether sunbathing while pregnant is beneficial for your health (and your baby’s health) – make sure to read this in-depth article about pros & cons of tanning during pregnancy.

Can The Sun Hurt My Unborn Baby?

It’s very well documented that getting just one sunburn can dramatically increase your risk of getting skin cancer later in life. But will it cause birth defects or hurt your baby?

Long story short, the quick answer is no! Even a severe sunburn is technically only skin deep, so the sun’s rays will not reach all the way to the uterus. However, it is still very important to protect yourself from sunburn during pregnancy.

Can Getting Sunburnt While Pregnant Hurt The Baby?

Mild sunburns will not harm a developing baby, but a bad sunburn can harm a pregnant woman. Excessive sun exposure can increase body temperature and lead to dehydration as well as other symptoms that can be very uncomfortable for mama.

One of the key concepts of pregnancy care is “healthy mom, healthy baby.” This means that if you’re dehydrated, it won’t be long before your little one is too. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Once you get rehydrated, both of you will be just fine!

In other words, taking good care of yourself is the absolute best way to protect your baby.

Can Sunburn On Belly Hurt Baby?

Will accidentally getting a sunburn on your stomach affect your growing baby? Research evidence are not clear, but most likely sunburn on belly can’t hurt the baby. It’s because UV rays from the sun don’t go much farther into the body than the skin. So the risk to a fetus from a sunburn on the stomach is minimal!

If your tummy gets too much sun, it probably won’t feel too great. But rest assured, baby is still safe and sound inside. Just make sure that you get enough rest, water, and sun protection to heal and keep yourself safe.

Can sunburn while pregnant hurt my baby

Are You More Prone To Getting A Sunburn During Pregnancy?

It is true that pregnant women are at greater risk for sunburn. While you’re pregnant, hormonal changes can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. And even a mild sunburn can be very painful!

Here’s another interesting fact: during pregnancy, pigment producing cells in your skin go into overtime (this is related to changes in your estrogen levels).

This can lead to gray brown patches on the skin called melasma or a dark line down the center of your belly called a “pregnancy line”.

In addition, you may notice darkening of the skin around the nipples or other areas of your body. This is a normal side effect of pregnancy, and isn’t harmful. There’s a good chance that once you have your baby, the darkened spots will go away on their own.

Sometimes, however, it may take years for these darker areas to fade, or they may even stick around permanently. Lasting cosmetic changes can be distressing, so it may be helpful to speak with a dermatologist who can help you explore further treatment options.

How Can I Prevent Getting A Sunburn While Pregnant?

Choosing the right sunscreen is one of the most important things to consider for sunburn prevention during pregnancy. In just a few more paragraphs, we’ll discuss how to choose a sunscreen for use during pregnancy, but here are a few other important considerations.

Make sure to reapply sunscreen frequently. Follow the guidelines on the packaging to ensure that your sunscreen doesn’t wear off before you reapply.

Pick out a water-resistant sunscreen, even if you don’t plan to get in the water. Even sweat can wash off a sunscreen, leaving your skin susceptible to sun damage.

Drink lots of water, stay in the shade, and make sure to moisturize your skin regularly in order to prevent sunburn while you’re pregnant2.

How To Choose The Right Sunscreen For Pregnancy

The key to choosing a safe sunscreen during pregnancy is to look for a mineral as opposed to chemical sunscreen. Opt for a lotion instead of sunscreen sprays, as the spray forms are more likely to contain harmful chemicals.

According to many experts3, pregnant women should avoid chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone – which can be found in chemical sunscreens. These active ingredients can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

If you’re in the hunt for good sunscreen, first read this article: Ingredients to avoid when pregnant & safer alternatives.

How to choose sunscreen for pregnancy

What’s The Difference Between Chemical And Mineral Sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens aren’t absorbed into the skin. Instead, they sit on top of it, forming a physical barrier that blocks UV rays before they even reach the skin.

Dermatologist Nava Greenfield4 advises the following: “Physical blockers make for excellent pregnancy-safe sunscreen, so look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label rather than chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone or octinoxate”.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have also been touted as hypoallergenic, so that’s another plus for pregnant women dealing with sensitive skin5.

Taking Precautions In The Sun

You may love how the sun kisses your skin, but it’s incredibly important to avoid sunburn during pregnancy! Follow these tips to minimize your risks of developing skin cancer later in life and protect your unborn child.

Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Avoid going outside during the peak hours of the day, when the sun’s rays are brightest. The late morning to early afternoon hours (usually 10am to 3pm) pose a higher risk of sun damage and sunburns.

The peak temperatures during this part of the day can also increase your core temperature, making you feel sick.

It’s possible to get a sunburn even when it’s cloudy out! UV rays from the sun can cut through clouds to cause skin damage, so it’s always a good idea to wear sunscreen any time you go out to get some fresh air.

How Do I Heal A Sunburn While Pregnant?

Maybe you’ve done your best to avoid sunburns, but still ended up with sunburned skin. What can you do to speed the healing process?

Firstly, avoid further exposure to the sun’s rays. Stay inside if you can, and wear sunscreen as well as protective clothing when going outside. Consider getting a battery powered fan to keep your body cool if the extra layers make you uncomfortable.

Apply aloe vera gel to the affected area for quick sunburn relief. Aloe vera has been well demonstrated to help treat sunburns and soothe inflamed skin. Plus, it’s all natural!

Apple cider vinegar is another natural home remedy that can be used to treat a mild sunburn.

Make sure to stay hydrated – drink lots of water throughout the day. If plain water isn’t your jam, try adding some fresh fruit or cucumber slices to your drinking water for a dash of flavor.

Be extra gentle with your skin while it’s healing. Take a cool bath instead of a hot shower for short term relief, and pat your skin dry instead of rubbing with a towel.

When Should I See Doctor For A Sunburn During Pregnancy?

If you develop blisters, muscle cramps, or a high fever, it may be time to seek medical attention. These are signs of severe sunburn that need to be addressed right away.

If the skin experiences excessive damage from a sunburn, folic acid breakdown can lead to preterm contractions. If you start having early contractions after a serious sunburn, get help from a doctor immediately.

The skin is the first line of defense of your body’s immune system. It’s important to keep it in good condition to keep you from getting sick – because we all know, the best way to keep baby healthy is to make sure mom is well taken care of!

Article By Jessica Pierce, RN

Jessica Pierce is Registered Nurse, Nationally Registered Paramedic, writer, and contemporary dance artist based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She holds two undergraduate degrees from Oral Roberts University – a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (2018) and a Bachelor’s of Art in Dance Performance (2019).

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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