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If you're not feeling attractive during pregnancy, the look of sun-kissed skin may do wonders for your self-esteem. The good news is that the ingredients in self-tanning lotions, creams, and foams are harmless, so it's fine to use them during pregnancy.
These products are basically dyes that stay on the surface of your skin and won't harm your developing baby. And self-tanners have improved dramatically in recent years, so you don't have to worry about looking like an extra from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
I'd recommend staying away from spray tans, however, because the aerosol fumes may not be safe for your lungs when inhaled. They may even enter your bloodstream, which means they could potentially affect your developing baby.
When it comes to tanning beds, though, there are several concerns for both you and your baby.
Tanning beds pose the same dangers as the sun: They emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes skin cancer. Don't believe anyone who tells you that because tanning booths emit only UVA rays, they're not hazardous to your health.
One study suggests that visiting a tanning booth 10 times in a year can double your chances of developing melanoma — one of the most deadly types of cancer. Melanoma is the only type of cancer that spreads to the placenta, which could be disastrous for both you and your baby.
Lying in a tanning bed can also raise your body temperature to a level that may be hazardous to your baby, particularly during your first trimester. Having an elevated body temperature during pregnancy – that is, above 102 degrees F, which can happen in a tanning bed, hot tub, or sauna – has been associated with spinal malformations in developing babies.
And then there's the concern that lying on your back too long could restrict blood flow to your heart and thus to your baby as well. (If this happens, you'll feel lightheaded.)
Finally, yet one more downside to tanning: Pregnant women with sensitive skin who expose themselves to UV rays – whether from tanning beds or the sun – may be more prone to chloasma, those dark splotches that can appear on the face and occasionally the arms during pregnancy.