Q: I’m three months along and spend a lot of time outdoors.Is it safe to use sunscreen?
A: According to Lori Wolfe, M.S., a certified genetic counselor and director of the Texas Teratogen Information Service, there’s more risk to you from not using sunscreen than to your fetus by using it. “Pregnant women are understandably worried about harming their baby by using any number of products, but sun protection is not one they should be concerned about,” Wolfe says. “Studies have not shown a risk to the fetus when its mother uses any type of sunscreen or sunblock.” Only 5 percent to 10 percent of any active ingredient is absorbed through the skin, and since the ingredient concentration levels in sunscreens and sunblocks are 1 percent to 2 percent, very little chemical gets into the body, Wolfe explains. However, research has shown that a pregnant woman’s skin is more sensitive to burning, which is why experts recommend that all expectant moms use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher. Another thing you should be concerned about is overheating. “Your baby is going to be whatever temperature you are, so if you overheat, he does, too,” Wolfe explains. Hyperthermia is a concern in early pregnancy because it has been linked to neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. But overheating is also a concern at any time during pregnancy, according to Wolfe: “The baby’s developing brain can be sensitive to too much heat.”