12/08/2009 04:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Tanning Carries More Risks For Pregnant Women

Many women enjoy looking sun-kissed, particularly in the summer months, despite the well-known risks of skin cancer and premature ageing associated with tanning. But did you know that pregnant women are vulnerable to a whole new level of risk when it comes to time in the sun?

Exposure to the sun can increase the core temperature of pregnant women, which in turn can elevate the temperature of the foetus. Overheating can result in developmental damage to your baby, including spinal malfunctions. Eek!

Furthermore, whilst pregnant the hormones in your body, mainly oestrogen, can cause what is commonly known as 'the mask of pregnancy', or chloasma, which appears as irregular brown patches on the face, and this is exacerbated by the sun and tanning.

And don't even think of going near a sunbed. Although they reduce the risk of overheating, they are certainly no better than tanning outside, with the UV radiation from the beds carrying the same risks of ageing skin and cancer.

For pregnant women, or indeed for anyone, the safest option is to use self-tanning lotions. Current NHS guidelines suggest that with sensible use the majority of self-tanning products are safe to use throughout pregnancy.

However, with the skin's sensitivity increasing, do err on the side of caution. The widespread use of self-tan is a relatively recent occurrence, and as such there is no long-term research into its actual effects for pregnant women.

It is, however, thought that most self-tans only penetrate your outer-most layer of skin and are not penetrated into the body. The only concern is whether the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), can be transmitted through the placenta to the baby.

Studies do not confirm that it can but pregnant women can help safeguard themselves against any self-tan complications by waiting until after the first trimester and doing a patch test on the skin, even if you have used the product before, due to the skin's increased sensitivity to chemical products. [Florence Buswell]