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What Are the Effects of Using Tanning Beds While Pregnant?

If you would love a sun-kissed tan to bring out your pregnancy glow, you may be considering a trip to the tanning salon to touch up your bronzed goddess skin. However, before you book your next appointment, take a look at the safety concerns that arise and consider alternative ways to get golden.

Temperature Elevation

While a tanning bed may seem like an excellent way to stay sun-kissed during the winter months, all that heat may not be good for your unborn baby. A positive correlation exists between elevated body temperatures and an increased risk of neural-tube defects in fetuses, such as spina bifida, advises the Mayo Clinic. The greatest period of risk is during the first trimester, between the fourth and fourteenth week of pregnancy. However, women are advised to avoid hot tubs, saunas, exposure to extreme heat outdoors, and tanning beds throughout pregnancy to avoid any risks to mom and baby due to elevated body temperatures.

While most tanning beds come equipped with cooling fans to try to keep your body from overheating, it's nearly impossible to keep track of your temperature to make sure you're staying in a safe range for your baby. The UV rays from the sun and tanning beds have also been pointed to as a culprit for folic-acid depletion, thus increasing the risk of neural-tube defects, says the American Pregnancy Association.

Venous Compression

While you're lying down in a tanning bed, the pressure of your uterus is compressing the veins in your back. Compressing veins during pregnancy can bring on supine hypotension syndrome, which is a feeling of lightheadedness and dizziness particularly as your baby bump begins to grow. Furthermore, the compression is causing a decrease in blood flow, which can reduce the volume of oxygen and nutrients that are getting to your baby. According to the Mayo Clinic, a reduction in oxygen and nutrient supply can lead to developmental delays and low birth weight. Most tanning beds are designed only for back-lying positions, rendering them less than ideal during pregnancy.


Along with an increase in heat comes an increase in water loss in your body. As your temperature rises, your body attempts to compensate by sweating to help cool you down. Unfortunately, this also drains your body of water, leading to dehydration, a condition that can potentially cause miscarriage, birth defects and preterm labor, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Therefore, it's important to keep up with your fluid intake and avoid excessive heat from tanning beds during your pregnancy.

Sunburn and Skin Irritation

Some of the hormone changes going on in your body during pregnancy can cause your skin to react more sensitively to chemicals, materials and particularly the harmful UV rays of a tanning bed or the sun. While it might have taken a while to get a good glow before, it's possible that you'll end up with a sunburn much faster than you expected if you opt for a session under the tanning lamps. While sunburn is not a direct danger for your unborn baby, you already have aching muscles, a sore back, the occasional bout of morning sickness and every other pregnancy bonus to deal with right now -- why add one more unnecessary discomfort to the list?

Furthermore, some women are more prone to a condition called melasma during pregnancy, points out Dr. Tanya Kormeili, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Pregnancy hormones make several changes to the skin, including a bigger predisposition to discoloration and melasma formation. UV radiation has also been shown to induce melasma." She warns that this condition creates dark spots that often appear on the face and arms and can be brought on or worsened by the UV radiation from tanning.


While you're working on making your skin look good, you may be doing it harm. In fact, the use of tanning beds has been directly linked to a 75 percent increased risk of developing melanoma, a potentially deadly type of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. While your risk of developing melanoma is not augmented or decreased by pregnancy, your bundle of joy will soon be here and you want to be in the best health you can. If you're desperate for a golden glow, opt for a sunless tanner, advises Kormeili. You'll get that sun-kissed look you've been longing for and know you're keeping yourself in good health for your baby-to-be. Look for a lotion or cream tanner with the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA) because it is considered safe for use during pregnancy by the United States Food and Drug Administration. While spray tanners are safe for skin application, it can be difficult to avoid inhaling the fumes when you apply the fake tan.

Photograph by: Ikonoklast_Fotografie/iStock/Getty Images

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