Health & Wellbeing Pregnancy

Sunburn While Pregnant (Risks & How To Treat A Burn)

If you are like most people you probably enjoy soaking up the rays and love the warming feeling of sitting in glorious sunshine.

Sun exposure and the vitamin D it provides has proven benefits, which include reducing depression, calming anxiety, lifting your mood and even strengthening your immune system.

Pregnant women might also be interested to learn that exposure to the sun in your first trimester can actually reduce the likelihood of pre-term birth.

But as with many enjoyable things it’s easy to overdo it, particularly because pregnant women can burn more easily compared to their pre-pregnancy days.

So in this article we will answer your questions about getting too much sun exposure, including the risks or excessive sun exposure and what to do if you get sunburn while pregnant.

Let’s jump in.

Risks Of Getting Sunburn While Pregnant

1. Raised Body Temperature

You’re probably more than aware that pregnancy can resulting feeling hotter or overheating much more quickly compared to usual.

Spending too long in the sun and becoming sunburnt can lead to heatstroke, which is never a good thing at the best of times, but is even more significant when expecting, because a raised body temperature for a significant period of time may lead to your baby developing brain damage.

Related: Your Complete Guide To A Happy & Healthy Pregnancy

2. Dehydration

Excessive sun exposure, a raised body temperature and sunburn call all lead to dehydration.

And this is something all pregnant women should do their very best to avoid, because experts including the AAP say dehydration can lead to complications including neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, lower breast milk production, and even premature labor.

3. Skin Cancer

During pregnancy your skin becomes more sensitive than usual, and this can mean you burn more quickly, which can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

To be more precise, experts believe that getting sunburn even once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer, compared to never being burnt, and that having 5 or more sunburns doubles your chances of getting cancer.

Colorful Letters arranged on a Surface

4. Changes To Your Skin

Another risk of getting sunburnt while pregnant is that your may end up with lasting changes to your skin.

Thanks to the hormonal changes in your body, exposure to the sun can increases the risk of the “mask of pregnancy” (also known as melasma or chloasma).

These spots usually appear on your forehead and cheeks, and while some women find they go away after giving birth, others are left with permanent changes to their skin.

Close-Up Photo of Woman's Face

Do You Sunburn More Easily When Pregnant?

Yes, if you are pregnant then it’s more easy for your to get sunburnt compared to when you’re not expecting.

The reason is because of increased hormone levels which make your skin extra sensitive.

Pregnancy also results in the skin around your stomach and belly stretching as your baby grows inside you, and this also means you’re more likely to burn compared to when you are not pregnant.

And as we mentioned above, this increases your chances of developing skin cancer, overheating, becoming dehydrated and developing permanent skin damage.

My Belly Got Burnt While Pregnant – What To Do

As we saw above, your skin is more sensitive than normal during pregnancy, and when combined with stretched skin around your belly (to accommodate your baby), you’re left with an area of the body that’s very easy to burn.

So if your belly got burnt while pregnant you’re not alone given this area of your body is extra sensitive.

The good news firstly is that sunburn is skin deep, so unless your burn is severe, your baby should not be harmed.

Below are some tips and advice on how to treat and relieve your burn.

How To Treat Sunburn

Here are some tips on how expectant moms can relieve their burnt skin, including how to treat a burn on pregnant belly.

  • Cool the area and get some temporary pain relief by taking a cool shower or bath.
  • Rub aloe vera gel or oil on the affected area to soothe and calm the burn.
  • Stay calm because sunburn is skin deep and your baby will not be affected.
  • Stay out of the sun until your burn heals completely.

Sunburn While Pregnant In Your Third Trimester: Can It Harm Your Baby?

Unless your burn is very severe, sunburn by itself is unlikely to harm your unborn baby, even if you are later into your pregnant in your second or third trimester.

This is because a sunburn is usually only skin deep, so will not affect your little one.

What is very important is to not overheat or become dehydrated, because as we mentioned above both those things can be dangerous for your baby.

If you want more information or are concerned then it’s probably worth speaking to your midwife or doctor.

Tips To Avoid Getting Sunburn During Your Pregnancy

1. Avoid The Heat Of The Day

Without doubt the best form of protection is prevention.

It might be frustrating, especially if you’re on vacation and everyone else appears to be enjoying the sunshine, but stay inside, or at least in the shade, between 10am and 2pm, as this is when UV rays are at their strongest.

Another preventative measure is to schedule outdoor activities like snorkelling for either the early morning or late afternoon.

Woman outside in the sunshine

2. Cover Up

The next tip is to cover your skin so that it’s not exposed to the sun’s powerful UVA and UVB rays.

If you can’t stay in the shade all the time, wear loose fitting, breathable clothing which will help protect your skin from sunburn and help you staying cool at the same time.

Covering up also includes your head and eyes, so make sure you wear a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses that block at least 95% of UVA and UVB rays (99% protection is even better).

3. Apply Sunscreen

The best way to think about sunscreen is the last line of defence against sunburn, rather than your first.

You skin is extra sensitive when pregnant, so use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 and reapply frequently, particularly after swimming in the sea or sweating.

If you’re wondering what what to look for, experts recommend pregnant women use broad-spectrum sunscreens that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

You might also want to avoid anything that contains oxybenzone and look for the ingredient zinc oxide instead, as this won’t be absorbed by your skin.

Woman applying sunscreen

4. Don’t Have A Goal Of Getting A Tan

A nice tan often looks great and can give you a healthy looking glow.

But given the risks of lasting skin damage, not to mention how easy it is to burn and overheat while pregnant, it a good idea not to have a goal of achieving a tan.

Consider other ways you can achieve a bronzed look – spray tans aren’t recommended for pregnant women, but tanning lotions are generally considered safe, and will help you avoid all the risks that come from getting sunburnt while pregnant.

5. Drink Plenty Of Fluids

The final precaution is more of a general tip when you’re in hot weather.

As pregnant women can overheat more quickly, and that exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, you should make a conscious effort to drink more than the 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day (64 to 96 ounces) experts recommend pregnant women drink.

If mom is dehydrated that can be dangerous for your baby, so watch out for these signs of dehydration (not urinating often, dark urine color, dry mouth) and be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your time in the heat.

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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