• Sunshine Health Foundation

Pregnancy Risks Reduced by Sun Exposure


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Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant? Are you getting bombarded with unsolicited information on how to have a healthy pregnancy? Do you want to know how to reduce your chances of unnecessary pregnancy risks?


Sensible daily sun exposure helps prevent negative chronic and mental health impacts on the health of your child. Modern science shows us that insufficient sun exposure has a devastating impact on the health of your child, including long-term chronic and mental health impacts.


Let’s explore some examples and discover links of insufficient sun exposure to increased risks for diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and asthma in our children. This science should empower pregnant women to get sensible sun exposure for the health of the mother and child.


Olympic Track Star, Allyson Felix, Almost Dies in Childbirth


Consider U.S. olympic track star Allyson Felix. She broke Usain Bolt's world record by winning her 12th gold medal at the 2019 Olympics. Allyson is the only track and field star to win seven Olympic gold medals. She's also a mother, a Black American mother.

On May 16th, 2019, Allyson used her voice and her platform to testify to the U.S. House of Representatives about racial disparities in maternal mortality. In her testimony, she told the committee of her terrifying near-death experience during the birth of her daughter.


Allyson was shocked that American women are still dying from childbirth in the 21st century. She could have easily lost her life, and her baby’s life, based upon irrefutable statistics regarding Black maternal and infant health in America.


Black American women are three times as likely to die from childbirth as White women, and Black infant health outcomes are disproportionately negative. Studies on just about any public health issues demonstrate striking disparities based upon race.


The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a growing racial justice movement, has highlighted long standing health disparities for Black Americans. Despite continued advances in healthcare, the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity and preterm birth in America have risen.


Black Americans continue to be at increased risk for poor maternal and infant health outcomes. In some instances, these disparities are the result of barriers to care for Black Americans.


For example, there's research that shows that healthcare coverage before, during, and after pregnancy facilitates critical access to care that supports healthy pregnancies, as well as positive maternal and infant outcomes after childbirth.


But, we know Black Americans are more likely to be uninsured. Beyond health coverage, Black Americans face other increased barriers to care, including limited access to providers, access to hospitals, and access to culturally appropriate, unbiased care.

Insufficient sun exposure in pregnant women increases the risk of the following diseases. Let's dive into the statistics.


Lung Diseases


Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of severe lower respiratory tract viral infection in offspring in the first year of life by 500%.


It contributes to poor lung development and respiratory infections in infants and toddlers, and also decreases production of vital antimicrobial peptides in infants.


Studies have found that insufficient sun exposure in pregnant women increases the risk of childhood obesity and multiple sclerosis in offspring. There's also an association with an increased risk that the child will have asthma.


Asthma is a particular concern for Black Americans because studies show that Black children are 5x more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than White children. In 2019, researchers found that Black children were 8x more likely to die of asthma White children.


Mental Health


Insufficient sun exposure in pregnant women significantly affects the mental health of an infant. It adversely affects the brain development of a fetus, and is associated with poor mental development. The chances of an infant developing an IQ of 110 are decreased by 50%.


Insufficient sun exposure also increases the risk of autism infants by 142%. Study after study indicates that Black children are more at risk for autism.


It also increases the risk of children developing schizophrenia by 44%. In a 2018 analysis of data from 52 different studies, researchers found that Black Americans are 2.4x more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than White Americans.


Infant Diseases


Insufficient sun exposure in pregnant women increases the risk of preterm birth by 132%. Not only is the preterm birth rate for Black Americans 64% higher than White Americans, but Black Americans have 2.3x the infant mortality rate of White Americans.

Death by low birth weight complications affects Black American infants 3.8x more than White infants.


Insufficient sun exposure in pregnant women increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infancy or an early childhood. SIDS rates in Black American children are more than twice those of White American children.


It also increases the risk of developing preeclampsia by 54%, especially within the first 26 weeks of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening, persistent, high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy in the postpartum period.


Preeclampsia disproportionately impacts Black women. Recent science shows that preeclampsia in mothers resulting from insufficient sun exposure can even lead to high blood pressure in their children.


In her testimony to the House, Allyson Felix tells a story of how she developed preeclampsia at 32 weeks, which led to an emergency caesarean. Her daughter spent almost one month in NICU recovery.


What if sensible sun exposure could have helped prevent Allyson’s preeclampsia? What if more expecting mothers knew about the increased health risks related to insufficient sun exposure? This is the problem the Sunshine Health Foundation seeks to solve.

Pregnant women should feel empowered to make their own health decisions when it comes to their infant and a healthy pregnancy. We suggest expecting moms take this knowledge and,

  1. Listen with an open mind.

  2. Do their own research.

  3. Follow your gut.

We hope pregnant mothers feel more equipped to make healthier choices for themselves and their growing families. And to consider ways to get more sun in a safe, sensible way during your pregnancy.