Can A Sunburn During Pregnancy Hurt The Baby? An OB Explains
It’s not the burn you need to worry about.
I’m so fair and so pale that I’m nearly translucent. So, needless to say, I burn easily in on sunny days. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I actually burned pretty badly through my bathing suit, which is apparently a thing that can happen. I was really worried. But can a sunburn hurt an unborn baby? Obviously sun damage isn’t great, but how much more harmful is it to your unborn baby when you’re pregnant? Here’s what you need to know about having (safe) fun in the sun during pregnancy.
Can a sunburn hurt an unborn baby?
I contacted Dr. Carolyn DeLucia, an OB-GYN, to get more information. Generally speaking, a sunburn confers “no risk to the baby.” So, the sunburn itself is not a problem, but heat is. “Being in the heat during pregnancy can be a problem,” DeLucia adds. “The heat may dehydrate a pregnant woman rather quickly so being conscious of this is key.” I will tell you that it's amazing how fast it happens. What I wasn't taking notice of was how much I was sweating out. I still had to pee occasionally, so I thought I was in the clear. I was wrong. “If pregnant, simply drink lots of water to remain hydrated so no preterm labor or excessive contractions occur,” she says.
Hydrate, wear SPF, and stick to the shade on hot days
As for the best sunblocks to use, you want an SPF of at least 30, you'll want to reapply regularly. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that offers UVA and UVB protection and is made of zinc or titanium dioxide, avoiding the chemical oxybenzone, which is known to be dangerous.
The sunburn I experienced during pregnancy was severe. I had blistering skin that was bright red and hot to the touch, and I felt faint and lightheaded after returning home. And I honestly thought I did everything right. I drank tons of water, went in the shade frequently, and slathered myself in SPF. That is all for naught if you are unaware that the swimsuit you're wearing is offering absolutely no sun protection and you get burned through the light material. I bought the tankini at a very popular swim shop and thought I was safe. It's incredibly important that the swimsuit you're wearing is rated to block the sun, and that you wear sunscreen beneath the suit as well. I had no idea that getting burned under or through your suit was common. I ended up being treated at the hospital for dehydration and heat exhaustion. My son was fine, but it was a scary period of time.
If you're worried, not feeling well, or have a particularly bad sunburn, call your OB-GYN. They'll know if you need to be evaluated further. Until then, might I suggest an umbrella and a hat?
Dr. Carolyn DeLucia, an OB-GYN
Matouskova K, Jerry DJ, Vandenberg LN. (2020) Exposure to low doses of oxybenzone during perinatal development alters mammary gland morphology in male and female mice. Reproductive Toxicology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31408669/
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