Is it Safe to Use Sunscreen and Insect Repellent if I’m Pregnant or Nursing?
If you’re pregnant or nursing, obviously you have a little one that is requiring all your attention, and you are probably very aware and conscious of all the things that you do to your body. Many mothers worry about how anything they do affects their babies.
Just as it is prudent to wear sunscreen and insect repellant when you’re not pregnant or nursing to prevent sunburn or bug bites that can potentially lead to greater problems, it is also prudent continue doing these things when you’re caring for an unborn child or nursing. But with all the ingredients and chemicals in products these days, how do you know what is safe to use and what isn’t.
Using Sunscreen when you’re pregnant or nursing:
When you’re pregnant your skin is more sensitive to the sun, so, yes, you really do need to wear sunscreen especially if you’re going to be in direct sunlight for more than 20 minutes a day.
Sunscreens which are applied to the skin, and may have ingredients that are absorbed into the skin, are perfectly safe when you’re pregnant. This includes products that contain titanium oxide and zinc oxide (which are not absorbed by the skin), and products such as Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone, Benzophenone, OMC (Octyl methoxycinnamate), PABA (Para-aminobenzoic acid) and Octocrylene. While this last list of sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the skin, it is usually in very small concentrations.
Some research studies have found low birth weight in girl infants that may have been associated with oxybenzone use by the mother, but the studies could not determine definitively whether or not oxybenzone was the sole cause. Oxybenzone can be found in many skin care products, not just sunscreen, including:
- Lip balm
- Hair conditioners
To be safe, look for zinc oxide- or titanium dioxide-based products.
Remember that sun exposure will worsen chloasma, or those dark splotches that can appear on the face or dark circles around the eyes nose and cheeks. This can also happen in tanning beds. Approximately 70% of all pregnant women experience chloasma. It is also best to avoid tanning lotions containing DHA until after the first trimester. (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists & American Pregnancy Association)
Using insect repellent when you’re pregnant or nursing:
Most of the concern around insect repellents is around the ingredient DEET. DEET is the most effective “deep woods” bug repellent ingredient on the market and has been proven to prevent mosquito bites and ticks from attaching and spreading West Nile and Lyme Disease. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid using products that contain Deet, or use the lowest amount of DEET possible.
To avoid absorption of DEET into the bloodstream and potentially reaching your baby through the bloodstream or breast milk, apply the insect repellent to your clothes or skin, but do not apply to skin that is under clothing. (CDC, via Texas Tech)
Look for natural or non-DEET bug repellant options such as citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass oil, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or products with picaridin or permethrin.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
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What’s a Sun Goddess to do During Pregnancy: Pregnancy & Tanning. American Pregnancy Association. Web. June 26, 2012.
Sunscreen Usage. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Web. June 26, 2012.
Is it safe to use insect repellent while I’m pregnant? Wolfe, Lori. BabyCenter.com. Web. June 26, 2012.
Insect Repellent Safety and Usage. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Web. June 26, 2012.