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Summer is here in full swing. Social media is flooded with pictures of beaches at sunset, advertisements for bathing suits and sundresses, invites to barbeques, boat rides, and pool parties, and a whole slew of advice for the best ways to take advantage of the warm weather and long days. 

For pregnant mothers, though, summer brings more than these heralds of sunshine and warmth. It brings questions. Can I tan? Is sunscreen safe for my baby? Should I be swimming in the pool? What about the ocean? 

Fortunately, pregnancy doesn’t have to change your summer routine too drastically — with a few common sense tips up your sleeve, the only thing you should be worrying about is where to find a cute maternity bathing suit for a photo shoot on the beach. 

Limit Your Sun Time

It is always a good idea to limit the amount of time that you expose yourself to direct sunlight. When you’re pregnant, the need is more immediate, as your skin is extra sensitive: excessive sun time can result in hives, heat rashes, or dark spots on your skin (also called melasma). The UV rays present in sunlight can also break down folic acid, a key nutrient for a healthy baby. 

Yet studies have shown that sunlight is directly linked to happiness. So how do you stay safe without sacrificing your mood?

Opt for clothes with more skin coverage when you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the sun. That might sound like a nightmare — with an extra person growing inside of you, summer pregnancy is already a hot proposition. Look for breathable, natural fabrics that absorb sweat like cotton, linen, and chambray; and avoid synthetic materials like rayon, polyester, and denim that repel moisture and lead to sweat stains and overheating. A broad-brimmed sun hat is another essential article of clothing that will keep you cool while limiting your sun exposure.

Wear Sunscreen  

It may seem like a no-brainer, but wearing sunscreen is a critical part of a summer routine, especially when you’re pregnant. The list of chemical ingredients on a sunscreen bottle can be frightening — after all, pregnancy can turn something that is otherwise harmless (think caffeine) into something to be avoided. It’s important to be hyper-aware of what your skin is absorbing during pregnancy.

There’s no harm in being extra cautious — look for mineral or physical sunscreens with the active ingredient of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are hypoallergenic and sit on top of the skin instead of absorbing into it. Opt for broad-spectrum lotion that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and choose a high SPF (ideally 30 or more). 

Embrace the Water

Swimming is an excellent, low-impact workout for moms-to-be; so pool, lake, or beach time is encouraged. Like anything else, there are certain precautions that are important to take. If you will be outside with no cover, avoid the peak sun hours of the day (10am to 2pm); and if this isn’t possible, bring some portable shade with you in the form of an umbrella or big, floppy hat. 

Remember that while being in the water can cool you down, its reflective properties are going to compound the effect of the sun’s rays: limit the time you’re spending in peak sun and apply water-resistant sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you swim. Avoid ingesting any water while you’re swimming, and take a pass on swimming in overly-chlorinated pools. 

Pro-tip: take advantage of sandy beaches for laying on your tummy — dig a hole in the sand for your belly and enjoy some rest!

Above all, stay HYDRATED. 

Our bodies are two-thirds water, and with another tiny body inside of you, it’s even more critical to stay on top of your water intake. Drinking out of water bottles is helpful for keeping track of your ounces, and setting a reminder on your phone is another way of staying accountable. 

When in doubt, always bring questions to your care provider.