Can I use tanning beds or self-tanner while I'm pregnant?

Q: Can I use tanning beds or self-tanner while I'm pregnant?

A: Sorry, but you're better off sticking with your natural skin tone while you're expecting. Tanning beds are never a good idea for anyone (pregnant or not), but can be especially dangerous for moms-to-be. When you bake in a tanning bed, you're not only putting yourself at risk for skin cancer (which can spread to your baby if you get it while you're pregnant), but you're opening the door for other complications, including:

- Too-high body temperature: Lying in a tanning bed can raise your body temperature to an unsafe level for your baby (above 102 degrees). This is especially risky in the first trimester when it can result in miscarriage or birth defects like spina bifida and problems the brain, spinal cord, and skull. - Risks to your baby's blood supply: Being on your back for 30 minutes in a tanning bed can restrict blood flow to your baby and leave you feeling dizzy. - Skin discoloration: You're already vulnerable to developing dark patches on your lips, chin, and cheeks (the discoloration is known as known as melasma), and these splotches are exacerbated by sun exposure. Usually the discolorations fade after your baby is born, but if they're very bad you may need a prescription skin bleach or laser treatments to eliminate them.

As far as self-tanning lotion goes, the expert response is mixed. Since there has not been any research on whether the main chemical in most self tanners (DHA) is safe for your baby, some experts feel you're better off avoiding any exposure to it during pregnancy. And unlike other spot treatments, you usually slather the stuff all over your whole body, which increases the possibility that it will can absorbed into your skin. Other experts feel there's probably no significant risk to using self-tanner sporadically (like before a big event or vacation) or limiting it to a smaller surface area, like just your face -- especially after the first trimester, when most of your baby's major organs have already developed. It's a good idea to get your doctor's take before deciding what's right for you.

Copyright 2009

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