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What you need to know about sunscreen and pregnancy

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace.

Question: Is it safe to use sunscreen when you are pregnant?

Answer: Anything that a mother ingests always has the potential of getting to her growing baby, so I understand your concern.

When lotion is applied to the skin, depending on the ingredients determines if it will be absorbed in our blood. It is through the blood stream that a baby becomes exposed to what the mother ingests.

It is advised that pregnant women avoid using sunscreens containing oxybenzone and PABA. Oxybenzone permeates the skin, allowing chemicals to be absorbed into the blood stream. It is not only in some sunscreen products, it is also in other lotions, skin care products, lip balms and lipsticks.

Painful skin allergic reactions have been reported with products that contain PABA. Check the ingredients in anything you put on your skin for both of these products.

Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safe during pregnancy. They are minerals that reflect the sun’s rays off the skin.

Protection from damaging ultra violet rays is important, especially during pregnancy. The increased release and production of hormones during pregnancy affects a woman’s skin in many ways.

One of affects is the skin sometimes produces more melanin than it can use. Melanin is a substance that gives color to our skin and our eyes. The more melanin one naturally produces, the darker their skin and eye color will be. “Pregnancy mask” is when fair skinned women, with blue or green eyes produce large amounts of melanin.

The increased melanin production is the result of the pregnancy hormones. Protecting the skin with a sun screen can minimize the “mask.” It can also happen to women using the birth control pill because the birth control pill tricks the body into thinking it is pregnant. The pregnancy mask is seen as random dark brown blotches on a woman’s face.

Another effect of pregnancy on the skin is moles appearing or growing bigger. In most cases the moles are not dangerous. You should always show them to your doctor to make sure.

Sunscreen helps the skin be protected from premature aging, skin cancers, and sun damage. However, it is not your only protection. Wearing a hat with a brim and clothes that are opaque is also important. Combining all of these together is the best protection for your skin.

Your skin is not the only part of your body that needs protection. Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B rays can cause cataracts, eyelid cancers and macular degeneration. Blue eyed people are especially vulnerable to vision damage from the sun.

Even on overcast days, blue eyed people should be wearing sunglasses offering a strong protection against the sun’s rays. A hat with a brim of 3 inches or more will protect your skin and eyes.

Sunshine is not to be feared, but respected. We receive benefits from the sun. The sun helps us make Vitamin D and lifts our spirits. Lucky us, we live in the sunshine state. Use protection and enjoy our beautiful state. Just read the labels before you slather and wear a hat. After all, doesn’t every woman look beautiful in a hat?

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living in the Bradenton Herald. Contact her at katie.powers@mmhhs.com.

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