Are sunbeds safe to use during pregnancy?

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Pregnant women often find that their skin is more sensitive than usual. If you use a sunbed when you’re pregnant, your skin may therefore be more likely to burn.

Damage from UV rays

Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays, the same type of harmful radiation found in sunlight. Getting a tan using a sunbed is not safer than tanning in the sun. In some cases, sunbed use can be more harmful. Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday Mediterranean sun.

Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

UV rays can cause your skin to burn and prematurely age it. UV rays can also damage your eyes by causing problems such as irritation, conjunctivitis or cataracts, particularly if you don’t wear goggles.

Sensitive skin and pregnancy

Lots of women find their skin is more sensitive during pregnancy. This means your skin may be more likely to burn in the sun or if you use a sunbed.

Changing hormone levels will also make you more prone to skin pigmentation (colouration). Dark, irregular patches of skin called chloasma sometimes appear on your face. This can be a sign that your skin will react more strongly to UV rays. If you sunbathe or use a sunbed, the dark patches are likely to increase.

Your unborn baby

There is currently no clear evidence about the effect of UV rays from sunbeds on an     unborn baby.

Some studies show that there may be a link between increased UV rays and a folic acid deficiency. This is because UV rays can break down folic acid.

Folic acid is very important in the development of the baby’s neural system (brain and spinal cord), which is formed during weeks 1-13 of pregnancy.

Fake tan

It’s also not advisable to use fake tan during pregnancy because it can sometimes cause an allergic reaction. This may be more likely if your skin is more sensitive than usual during pregnancy. If you really want to have a tan while you’re pregnant, always test the fake tan product on a small patch of skin first.


NHS Choices
Published Date 2010-09-06
Last Review Date 2009-07-13

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