Sunburn During Pregnancy: Risks and Treatment

Sunburn during pregnancy can be dangerous for both the woman and the fetus, although it can be easily avoided. Keep reading.
Sunburn During Pregnancy: Risks and Treatment
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 03 June, 2023

Although a little sunshine provides the vitamin D our body needs, sunburn during pregnancy is very risky. That’s not only because of the probability of developing skin cancer, but also because of dehydration and depletion of folic acid reserves. In turn, these repeated conditions tend to favor premature aging of the skin. Learn about the risks and treatments for sunburn during pregnancy.

Risks of sunburn during pregnancy

The hormonal changes that develop during pregnancy make the skin more sensitive and easier to burn. In addition, the skin surface is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation when exposed to ultraviolet rays. Because of this, sometimes, instead of achieving a subtle tan, they can cause ephelides or hyperpigmented spots.

Sun exposure can even drain fluids from the body and trigger dehydration or increased body temperature. Accordingly, a 2018 publication concluded that a lack of fluids can lead to stress and premature contractions, while the body’s inability to regulate its temperature can generate fever.

Another risk of sun exposure is the breakdown of folic acid in the body. This is involved in the probability of birth defects and in the neurological development of the baby.

Precautions for sunburn during pregnancy

Despite knowing the risks that sunburn during pregnancy can cause, some women choose to expose themselves to the sun in order to get a tan. In this case, it’s best to take the necessary precautions and measures to protect the skin.

A pregnancy woman putting sunscreen on her belly at the beach.
Using sunscreen is essential to avoid sunburn. Also, it’s key not to expose yourself to the sun’s rays at times when they’re most harmful.

Avoid sun exposure at certain times

It’s advisable to try not to expose yourself to the sun between 10 am and 3 pm, which is when ultraviolet rays are very strong and harmful. However, if you have to be outdoors, shady spaces created by trees are ideal, as well as the use of umbrellas or parasols. On the other hand, it’s also not a good idea to exercise when the sun’s rays are strongest and most perpendicular to the earth.

Use sunscreen

The use of sunscreen is recommended for everyone as a line of defense against damage caused by ultraviolet rays. It’s best to opt for strong broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays, have an SPF of at least 50, and are water resistant.

The application should be done every two hours in case of continuous sun exposure or when getting out of the pool, shower, or sea. Sunglasses with filter and approved lenses, light clothing, and the use of hats are also excellent complements.

In addition, it’s advisable to use sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone, as it’s easily absorbed through the skin and has been linked to type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.

Hydrate adequately

Drinking enough water keeps the body cool and helps prevent an increase in body temperature. Excessive heat can act quite quickly and dehydrate pregnant women. Therefore, drinking plenty of fluids is essential to keep the body hydrated and prevent excessive contractions or premature labor.

Treating sunburn during pregnancy

As with sunscreen, pregnant women should be cautious about what they apply to their skin to treat sunburn. In any case, the best way to manage the condition is to avoid it.

Take a cool shower

The skin burns and hurts because it has been overheated and burned when it was exposed for too long to the sun’s rays. Therefore, taking a cold shower provides temporary relief from that burning sensation.

According to a publication in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, adding colloidal oat extracts to a cold bath can help soothe the discomfort of skin burns through its direct antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A pregnant woman taking a bath.
Taking a bath with cold water helps soothe the burning sensation after prolonged exposure to the sun.

Apply decongestants

One of the most well-known decongestants is aloe vera, which can come as a gel, cream, or pure oil. And, if it’s also kept in the refrigerator, it can enhance its beneficial effect of relief and freshness. In addition, the aloe vera plant is also effective in treating various skin irritations.

Proper hydration

According to recent recommendations of the American Academy of Dermatology Association, drinking sufficient amounts of water not only helps prevent dehydration of the body but also aids in its recovery. Therefore, trying to drink at least two liters of liquid during the course of the day is a good option for prevention and treatment.

Preventing sunburn during pregnancy

In conclusion, there’s no need to stay at home all day and not expose yourself to the sun at any time. However, taking necessary measures and precautions to protect the skin of the pregnant woman and the fetus is crucial.

Enjoying the fresh air and the sun in a rational and conscious way is also essential for a healthy pregnancy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, Chon S, Kaur S, Mahmood K, Kizoulis M, Southall MD. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jan;14(1):43-8. PMID: 25607907.
  •  How to treat sunburn.[Internet] Disponible en:
  • Botyar M, Khoramroudi R. Ultraviolet radiation and its effects on pregnancy: A review study. J Family Med Prim Care. 2018 May-Jun;7(3):511-514. doi: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_311_17. PMID: 30112299; PMCID: PMC6069651.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.