Sunbed During Pregnancy

The dangers of using UV sunbeds during pregnancy 

Overheating during the first trimester of pregnancy may have a detrimental effect on your baby’s development.

Mothers with elevated temperatures during the first few weeks of gestation may have an increased risk of heart problems, neural tube defects, and preterm births. The National Institute of Health found that pregnant women whose first seven weeks of pregnancy coincided with extreme heatwaves had an 11 per cent increase in preterm births.

It’s not only sunbeds that can expose pregnant women to the dangers of heat exposure; saunas, hot tubs and very hot baths too.

Neural tube defects, e.g. Spina Bifida, affect the brain and spinal cord, causing issues such as fluid on the brain, paralysis, learning and developmental disabilities.

Studies have determined that overheating from sunbed use during pregnancy can lead to the following:

  • Congenital disabilities
  • Preterm birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight

The relation between UV rays impact folic acid levels

Sunbeds also give out ultraviolet (UV) rays, the exact harmful radiation found in sunlight. The NHS states that using a sunbed is not safer than tanning in the sun.

No studies have investigated whether use during pregnancy is harmful to a baby in the womb; therefore, sunbed use during pregnancy cannot be recommended.

According to The UK Teratology Information Service, there are theoretical concerns (based mainly on animal experiments) that use in the first trimester can increase the mother’s body temperature and, therefore, the chance of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the child.

Some studies, but not all, have also shown that UV light exposure may decrease the levels of folic acid in our bodies. A lack of folic acid has been linked to the development of the baby’s neural tube, resulting in defects such as spina bifida. [2]

This is because UV rays can break down folic acid. Folic acid is detrimental to the development of a child’s neural system (brain and spinal cord) formed during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Sunbeds and cancer

Whether pregnant or not, the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend sunbeds and tanning booths due to an increased risk of skin cancer.

I used sunbeds during pregnancy; will this affect my unborn child?

Using a sunbed during pregnancy is unlikely to increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, if you suspect you are pregnant, or it is confirmed, stop using sunbeds as a precautionary measure.

Theoretical concerns, primarily based on animal studies, suggest that sunbeds during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy might increase the mother’s body temperature and, therefore, the chance of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the baby.

Human studies have not been conducted, but studies of the effects of exposure to other external heat sources in pregnancy have been reassuring overall.

A scan at 20 weeks pregnant is offered to all women to check for congenital disabilities, so this may give you some reassurance that your baby will not have been affected by the use of sunbeds.

Alternatives to sunbeds during pregnancy

Fake tanning during pregnancy is likely the best alternative to solarium use.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is the active ingredient in false tan, a non-toxic substance that reacts with cells in the outermost layer of the skin and produces a brown pigment.

Wash off fake-tan

A wash-off false tanner is more like body makeup than a false tan, as it can be thoroughly washed off, therefore, we recommend the Vita Liberata Body Blur.

Long last false tan

Faux tans that stain the skin for a week or so are a great way to stay tanned because you can have multiple showers without washing off.


1: Environmental Health Perspectives, 2019, Taking the Heat: Potential Fetal Health Effects of Hot Temperatures. Available from:

2. National Institutes of Health, 2016, Extreme temperatures could increase preterm birth risk. Available from:

2: UKTIS, Sunbeds/Tanning Booths. Available from: