Health & Wellbeing Pregnancy

How Long Can You Sit In The Sun or Sunbathe While Pregnant?

As a mom-to-be it’s important to plan fun activities with your friends and family before your little one is born and life get’s a little more, let’s say..busy.

Whether you are off on a family vacation, looking forward to a camping trip or some other staycation, or just curious as the weather heats up, something that’s probably on your mind is how safe or risky sun exposure is during pregnancy.

So in this article we will look at how long you can sit in the sun while pregnant, whether sunbathing is a good idea or not, and how to take the necessary precautions to ensure both you and your baby are safe.

Let’s jump in.

How Long Can I Sit In The Sun While Pregnant?

Unfortunately there is no simple answer regarding how long expectant moms can sit in the sun, because it comes down to several factors.

The general rule of thumb is to avoid excessive exposure, wear sun protection, avoid getting burnt and above all always use common sense.

Before looking at the risks, it’s also worth bearing in mind that the sun does provide some benefits too, provided your exposure isn’t overdone.

Benefits Of Sun Exposure While Pregnant

Nowadays it’s common knowledge that too much exposure is bad for you, but some exposure to sunlight can also be good for you.

For example, you might be surprised to learn that studies show that higher sun exposure in the first trimester can actually reduce the likelihood of pre-term birth.

Sunshine is also a source of vitamin D, which is beneficial for pregnant women and can help in the bone development of your unborn baby, as well as lowering the risk of attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Other benefits of vitamin D and sunlight are the ability to lift our mood and reduce depression, as well as strengthening our immune system.

Lady in Beach Silhouette during Daytime

Risks Of Excessive Sun Exposure During Pregnancy

Having said this, there are definite risks with overexposure to direct sunlight, and this applies to everyone and not just pregnant women.

Three of the most significant risks of getting too much direct sunlight while pregnant include:

1. Overheating & Dehydration

You may have experienced first-hand that one side effect of being pregnant is that you can overheat more quickly than normal.

And when a pregnant woman’s body temperature is raised for a significant period, it could lead to their unborn baby developing brain damage (which is why hot baths are off the cards).

Overheating can also lead to dehydration, which is something pregnant women should really try to avoid, because experts including the AAP say it can lead to complications including neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, inadequate breast milk production, and even premature labor.

2. Skin Cancer

Did you know that when you are pregnant your skin is more sensitive compared to your pre-pregnancy days?

For this reason excessive sun exposure, particularly if it leads to sunburn, can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

A Message Between Black Ribbon and Sunglasses on a White Surface

3. Skin Changes

When you are pregnant and exposed to the sun, the hormonal changes in your body increases the risk of melasma and chloasma (also know as the “mask of pregnancy”).

For some women these spots, which tend to appear on your forehead and cheeks, don’t go away even after your baby is born, so you may be left with permanent changes to your skin.

Can You Sunbathe While Pregnant?

There appears to be mixed advice about sunbathing while pregnant – some say you should avoid it completely while expecting, while others say it’s fine provided you avoid excessive sun exposure and don’t get sunburnt.

One thing that is clear is there are definite risks to being exposed to too much sun during your pregnancy.

Whether you decide to sunbathe or not during this time will probably come down to what you’re most comfortable with, and if you’re in doubt it might be a good idea to check with your midwife or doctor.

Just remember when making your decision that you’re more likely to overheat when pregnant and your skin is more sensitive than usual, and this may lead you to becoming more easily dehydrated and sunburnt compared to normal.

If you do decide to sunbathe, or are just out and about, be sure to follow the advice below to help you and your baby stay safe.

Related: The Complete Guide To A Happy & Healthy Pregnancy

Can You Use Sunscreen While Pregnant?

Knowing the dangers of excessive sun exposure in general, and that pregnant women have more sensitive skin than usual, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe for moms-to-be to use sunscreen while expecting.

The short answer is yes.

The American Academy of Dermatology advise everyone to use sunscreen to protect against the dangers of too much sunshine.

Woman applying sunscreen

In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages pregnant women to continue using sunscreen while expecting, as it can help protect against burns and reduce melasma (the mask of pregnancy we mentioned above).

In terms of what to buy, experts recommend pregnant women look for broad-spectrum sunscreens, which offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

You should also go for a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and avoid the ingredient oxybenzone (look for zinc oxide instead, as this won’t be absorbed by your skin).

Precautions For Pregnant Women

1. Stay Out Of Sun During Hottest Part Of Day

It sounds obvious, but best form of sun protection is prevention.

So if possible stay inside or at least in the shade, and don’t schedule any activities like snorkelling, between 10am and 2pm, because this is when the sun is at its strongest.

Tropical beach with deckchairs and umbrella

2. Use Sunscreen

Your skin is sensitive to the sun at the best of times, but this is even more so while pregnant.

Everybody should use sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun, but given you can burn more easily when pregnant, it’s essential you use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30.

Remember to reapply as stated, especially after swimming in the sea or sweating.

3. Stay Hydrated

Experts recommend pregnant women drink 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day (64 to 96 ounces).

Given pregnant women can overheat more quickly, and that exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, you will likely need to drink much more than that if you’re exposed to sunshine in hot weather.

Becoming dehydrated can be dangerous for your baby, so look out for these signs of dehydration – if you experience any of below you should be taking in a lot more liquid.

  • Urinating infrequently
  • Dark yellow urine color
  • Dry mouth or tongue
  • Stopped sweating
  • Feeling tired, light-headed, or dizzy

4. Cover Up

The shade will help you avoid direct sunlight and help prevent you overheating.

But if you are in the sun, try to cover as much skin as possible with loose, breathable clothing to avoid getting burnt while staying cool.

In addition, you should always cover your head by wearing a wide brimmed hat, and protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block at least 95% of UVA and UVB rays.

Woman on beach wearing hat

5. Don’t Try To Tan

Finally, it can be tempting to lying in the sun for extended periods to try and get a healthy looking glow.

But given sunbathing comes with risks, and it’s very easy to burn and overheat during pregnancy, you might be better off considering other ways to achieve that sun-kissed look.

While spray tans aren’t recommended for pregnant women, tanning lotions are generally considered safe, so why not turn to a bottle to get that bronzed look without all the risks that come from too much sun exposure.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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