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Can Too Much Sun Exposure Affect Your Fertility?

July 24, 2015

Here in Florida, we always talk about the sun’s impact on the skin, but recent research is putting a greater spotlight on its potential benefit—and dangers—to a woman’s fertility.

Depending on a woman’s age, she has between a Certain things can improve your chances of getting pregnant, including healthy diet and lifestyle choices, not smoking and the right timing.

But now one recent study claims that sunbathing could help you get pregnant. Researchers examined the IVF results of about 6,000 women and found that adequate sun exposure a month before conception increased their odds of pregnancy. Sunny weather increased the success of IVF by 35 percent. The is likely because sun exposure increases vitamin D levels, which is associated with higher levels of estrogen and progesterone in women and higher levels of testosterone in males, both of which increase fertility.

Though these findings are interesting, I would caution women against sitting out in the sun for too long. The study was done in Europe, which gets far less sunshine than we do in the U.S., especially here in Central Florida. In fact, too much sun exposure can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. That’s because studies have shown that radiation present in the sun can affect folic acid, a vitamin that is involved in rapid cell growth and DNA synthesis during pregnancy. Folic acid helps to produce chromosomes, which are essential to how a baby develops and grows in the uterus. However, the sun breaks down folic acid and this affects the development of the baby. Research has shown that pregnant women with high levels of sun exposure experience a higher rate of complications and women trying to conceive also experience lower fertility rates.

So what should you do? Obviously, it’s impossible to completely avoid the sun when you live in place that’s warm year round. Pregnant women can go to the beach and spend time outside. You just have to be careful about the amount of sun exposure you get. If you plan to be outside for awhile wear sunscreen that’s at least SPF 15, since this provides sun protection that helps to prevent the breakdown of folic acid. Also, put on a hat and wear light clothing that covers your arms and legs, and avoid sitting in the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense.

I think the most important takeaway from this study is not that sun exposure boosts fertility, but that vitamin D plays a role in improving it. The risks of sun exposure are too great, so it’s better to consume vitamin D from foods or oral supplements to get the nutrients you need. Folic acid is also key. Women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day at minimum and should be careful about high levels of sun exposure, since this can degrade folic acid in the body. Following these guidelines, rather than sunbathing every day, will help you conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.