How Sun Exposure Affects Fertility

What if we told you that catching too many rays this summer could affect your fertility?  Would be parents may want to think twice before sitting in the sun for long hours during these next few months.  Although this Norwegian study was released earlier this year, now that beach and bikini season is upon us – it is important to revisit the findings and what it means for people trying to get pregnant and have kids.


The research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology suggests that more exposure to the sun could affect fertility across generation and can affect the lifespan of future children.  The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B back in January – but serves as a cautionary tale for all women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. 

Researchers analyzed the records of over 9,000 people from 1750-1900 that compared the life history of patients with historical evidence of cycles of solar radiation. Life history included the age at which women had children, the survival rate of children after birth and the amount children who married and had kid of their own.  What they found was that children born in years where there were more heavily concentrated UV rays or more solar activity, had shorter lifespans by about 5 years than other children.   Norwegian children who were from higher UV areas and whose moms spent an increased amount of time outdoors, were at higher risk for mortality before the age of two. 

What researchers think is going on here is that sunlight, or UV rays in particular are causing the degradation of folate, or vitamin B, which plays a very important role in pregnancy.  Folate is needed in the body during pregnancy to perform DNA synthesis, rapid cell division and cell growth.  Of course there are probably other factors involved, like lifestyle and diet, that affect the fertility of moms and how well children are able to survive and have children of their own.  But for now, the study authors recommend pregnant women stay out of the sun and don’t sunbathe.

Beyond recommending against sunbathing, the researchers also said that those wanting more grandchildren should also avoid the sun to this end.  Fertility in the following generations were higher for children whose mother spent less time under UV radiation.  For those trying to conceive now, the sun should also be avoided – but this doesn’t necessarily go for women who are trying to get pregnant a few years from now.  Furthermore, women might be able to combat this UV damage by wearing sunscreen, especially broad-spectrum.  Sunscreen could provide a protective barrier against one more negative effect of UV rays.  This gives people, especially women another reason to lather up this summer.