Tanning gives you a healthy glow and can make you feel better about everything from your body image to the rainy day outside. As a result, many women would like to continue to tan while pregnant in order to help themselves feel better about the changes that their body is experiencing and also to help themselves stay on an "even keel." However, most doctors recommend against this, and many states even have laws prohibiting this practice.
When you get in a tanning bed, you expose yourself to UV rays. These rays mimic the action of the sun and cause your skin to tan, often much more quickly than you would be able to tan outside. However, these rays--like those of the sun--can also cause serious health problems like skin cancer. The rays can also impact the development of your baby. While it has not been firmly substantiated, many doctors believe that your baby will be far more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays than you. For instance, smoking or alcohol impact the health of a fetus far more dramatically and immediately than they do the health of the parent. Doctors fear that the same will hold true for exposure to those rays.
It is important to remember that UVA and UVB rays are a form of radiation. Even if you are comfortable with exposing yourself to these rays because you believe it is safe or believe that the benefits outweigh the risks, it is absolutely unsafe for your baby to be exposed to these rays. Furthermore, the extreme and focused heat involved in indoor tanning is a proven risk to the health of babies, particularly in the third trimester. This applies to any type of heat, not just tanning-generated baking. Furthermore, UV rays and radiation--which are what the tanning bed uses to literally tan your skin--have been proven to cause autoimmune problems and increased infant mortality in mice. They've also been proven cause serious cell and DNA mutations in a variety of amphibious test subjects. These studies were conducted at the Argonne National Laboratory and supported by the National Academy of Sciences.
As your baby grows, the risks associated with indoor tanning increase. There is no conclusive evidence to indicate that tanning in the first month or two of pregnancy will ultimately harm your infant. If you continued to tan before you realized you were pregnant, you should not be alarmed. However, you may wish to notify your doctor. As your baby grows, he will become more sensitive to the world around him and your actions. It is possible that tanning can cause health complications after birth due to the extreme heat and the radiation.
Even if your doctor clears you to continue tanning, be aware of the potential problems that you may face that could impact the health of your baby. For example, if you develop skin cancer or related health problems during your pregnancy, your treatment options may be limited by your condition. If you do elect to treat your cancer aggressively, you may harm your baby in the process. Furthermore, many states prohibit tanning during pregnancy by law.
Generally, dermatologists as a whole discourage indoor tanning because it damages and ages the skin under the best of circumstances. It can cause serious problems like skin cancer or even other types of cancer like prostate cancer in men in worse cases. Most obstetricians will recommend against tanning while pregnant, but you may occasionally find a doctor who does not believe that it will impact your baby...or who thinks that you can continue to tan until you are 3 to 6 months along. If you are cleared to tan, you need to get a second opinion or do some research on your own to make sure that the risks are acceptable to you.
Indoor and outdoor tanning have a variety of health benefits for some people. Sunlight and artificial sunlight is often used to keep skin conditions like psoriasis under control, and judicious exposure can help prevent depression and increase levels of vitamin D, a vitamin that is good for the immune system. However, it may be necessary to find alternative sources of these benefits for the duration of your pregnancy in order to insure the health and safety of your baby.
Whether you are pregnant or not, tanning is accompanied by serious risks of skin cancer and premature aging. Work with a dermatologist and your obstetrician to make sure that you are doing everything possible to protect yourself and your baby during your pregnancy. If you must tan, make sure that you are not breaking any laws and that your tanning salon is aware of your condition in case it makes any changes to the beds that could adversely affect you.